School district gets wage guide

The Princeton School Board needs to redo the district’s job compensation and classification guide, according to a consultant, to meet state rules and have as fair a pay system as possible.

Robert Bjorklund, president of Bjorklund Compensation Consulting, reported his study’s findings to the board on Oct. 22.

The consultant’s advice comes as the board is moving into negotiation talks with the district’s different employee groups and their unions. Board Chair Deb Ulm said the board wants the contracts settled by the end of this calendar year.

Bjorklund said he began working on the guide by first developing a customized salary survey questionnaire to send to various school districts, gathering and documenting salary data on benchmark jobs.

Bjorklund Compensation Consulting asked 24 school districts to participate and 13 of them responded. He told the School Board he was disappointed that some area schools like Foley, Becker, St. Francis and Buffalo, did not respond.

He also gathered information from the Centennial Public Schools 2012 pay equity report, as well as the 2012 occupational wage estimates for St. Cloud and the Twin Cities, and Bjorklund Consulting’s 2011 salary survey report for the Sartell-St. Stephen Schools. Bjorklund “aged” the data to factor in inflation to be useful for 2013.

Other school districts Bjorklund looked at were Big Lake, Elk River, Cambridge-Isanti, Anoka-Hennepin, Mahtomedi, Albertville, Waconia, Hutchinson, Grand Rapids, Detroit Lakes and Chisago Lakes.

Bjorklund Consulting then applied a classification matrix system of job evaluations to determine the responsibility level of each job in the Princeton district and from that ranked them in classes, known as job hierarchy. Bjorklund said the system ensures that jobs are aligned fairly on the basis of internal responsibility and not on market or other external factors. The job ratings are used to initially slot jobs to salary ranges and Bjorklund Consulting used a point system to assign jobs to 32 salary ranges or grades.

It gave a minimum of 200 points and a maximum of 216 points to jobs in the lowest grade. The top grade of 32 had a range of 2,297 to 2,481 points.


Four factors
to consider

The four main factors in determining these ranks, he explained, are the amount of knowledge and skills needed for the job, supervisory authority, public relations and working conditions. Within each of the four major factors are subfactors.

Bjorklund Consulting used two different methods to analyze data. One method was to examine market data on a job-by-job basis to see how competitive Princeton’s pay rates within the overall market. The other method was a statistical trend analysis of current pay rates, market rates and job evaluation outcomes to assess the differences between the market and Princeton’s pay structure.

Using the job-by-job analysis suggested three things, Bjorklund said, and they were:

• On average, the market is about 11.2 percent higher than Princeton’s range of minimums.

• On average, the market average medium pay rate is about 10.6 percent higher than Princeton’s average rates.

• On average, the market median maximum rate is 18.8 percent higher than Princeton’s maximum range rates.

Bjorklund cautioned that making conclusions from the statistics can be “dangerous.” He explained that within the averages, you can find instances of wide variations. His data shows, for example, how a cook’s helper in the district has a minimum wage of $13.57, which is 20 percent higher than the market starting pay of $11.31 for that position.

Conversely, the study shows the average wage for a recreation and enrichment coordinator in the Princeton district at $15.04 versus the medium market average of $22.10, a difference of 31.93 percent.

Bjorklund added that some of the district jobs in the low grades pay significantly more than the market, while some district jobs with responsibility have below-market pay.

Also, there are a number of lower job grades which pay the same, “which I think is a big concern,” he said. Bjorklund speculated the reason is because some time back the state ruled that Princeton was out of compliance in wages for certain lower-class jobs and the district responded by raising those wages.

Bjorklund recommended that Princeton continue using the plan it has historically used to negotiate teacher salaries but that it should reduce the current number of salary steps for teachers, now at 21. Most districts have 12-13 steps, he noted. He recommended that the district redo its classification and wage guide for the job grades above and below the teacher grade.

Bjorklund said he found that it takes people in female-dominated jobs a longer time to move through the salary range (steps) than male-dominated jobs in the district, and said that is primarily due to the 21 steps.

Bjorklund was asked later what he would most like to see in a wage and job classification system. It would be to have uniform salary ranges for similar jobs, whether the jobs are custodian, paraprofessional or a secretary, he answered. The district now has so many different wage ranges because of so many different bargaining units, he said.

Bjorklund said the guide that his company provided is subject to the wage negotiations but that the goal should be to settle on wages that are close to the guide.

He also said that districts are scored on the quality of their pay and job classification guide and that districts should be at 80 percent or better. The Princeton district is at 77.

The district will have to show progress in pay equity, especially with the classified employees, Ulm said.

The School Board has two committees for negotiating contracts for the district’s employee groups – one committee for certified, which are the teachers, and another for classified employees. The certified committee has scheduled its second meeting for this week to negotiate with the teachers, while the other committee has not yet met with classified employees.