Is $74K Enough Per GUSD Employee?

Each employee costs the school district an average of more than
$74,000 and it’s not enough, trustees and district staff said.
Gilroy – Each employee costs the school district an average of more than $74,000 and it’s not enough, trustees and district staff said.

The Gilroy Unified School District will spend more than $64 million this year on the equivalent of 912 full-time employees – including custodians, teachers and district administrators. Employees will take home an average of $54, 379 in salary plus more than $16,000 in benefits. These figures do not include the 4.05 percent compensation increase given to all employees Thursday night.

Yet, “if that’s suggesting that our staff is highly paid, I think that’s misinformation,” said trustee Jaime Rosso.

Employees are underpaid given the difficulty and weight of their jobs, trustees said.

“One of the most important jobs in this country is educating our children,” trustee Rhoda Bress said. “The compensation needs to be a reflection of the importance of that job. I don’t think our public funding system is doing that and we as a society need to address that.”

Of the 912 employees, 97 are compensated more than $100,000 annually. Most of these people work in district administration and work between 222 and 227 days, Superintendent Deborah Flores said. Flores led the crowd with about $213,000 annual pay.

Certificated teachers typically work about 186 days, though some also teach during the summer, Flores said. Yet, they usually get comparable daily pay as district and school administrators. For example, several high school teachers who received upwards of $110,000 made more per day than some elementary principals who received $131,000 in total compensation – or about $591 per day.

High school teachers were not the only teachers pushing administrator salaries. Kindergarten teachers netted more than $79,000 average in total compensation – or $425 per day.

Yet, in comparison to similar districts, Gilroy fares poorly in average employee compensation, trustees said. The district is among the lowest-paying in the county, which has about a dozen districts. Teachers point out that even though they get paid less than districts to the north, Gilroy has a similarly high cost of living.

“I’m very close to the top of the pay scale, so I make decent money,” said 23-year teaching veteran Jeff Manker, who will cost the district about $96,400. “But for new teachers, trying to live in this community on this pay scale is difficult.”

Similarly, district pay is not attractive compared to that of the private sector or other civil servant positions, trustees said.

In 2006-07, Gilroy police officers made an average salary of $90,673 and firefighters make an average of $88,526 – 67 and 63 percent more than school employees, respectively.

However, the average Gilroy earnings in 1999 – the last year of census data – were about $45,800 for males and $34,700 for females.

Despite being comparatively poorly paid for educators, district employees work very hard, Flores said.

“Most of our folks don’t even take the vacation days they’re allowed in their contract,” she said.

The unattractive pay has already made attracting and retaining employees difficult, said teachers, trustees and Flores. Because of a poor health benefits, Flores had difficulty this summer recruiting three elementary school principals, one middle school principal, two assistant superintendents and several district administrators, she said.

If the number of people going into district careers continues to decrease, hiring and retaining staff will become more difficult, Flores and trustees said. To make matters worse, as the aging employee population retires, the district will have even more holes to fill, they said.

The situation is going to create a staffing “crisis” that will force trustees to rethink employee pay and strain the district’s budget, Bress said.

“There’s going to be a huge need for teachers and there’s just not going to be the teachers to fill the jobs,” Rosso said.