“You’re taking eight percent from the bottom eight percent,” said school bus driver Terry Grizzle while addressing the board of education members Monday evening.
Around him dozens of fellow drivers, and a few custodians and lunchroom employees, nodded along in agreement.
Each appeared concerned about the impact of a proposed hike that would call for classified employees to pay an extra $70 per month for state benefits.
Grizzle said it’s a number that may seem small to some, but represents a big portion of a local driver’s paycheck.
“We’re the lowest paid bus drivers in our area,” said Grizzle, who was chosen to speak for on behalf of the other drivers. “... We average $8.53 an hour. It’s barely above minimum wage.”
Prior to the meeting, Superintendent Dewey Moye said the proposed increase is the result of a ten percent “across the board” rise in insurance premiums.
The school systems will soon pay $5,345 in annual benefits for classified employees, as well as $10,984 for certified employees, who will not face the $70 hike due to a state requirement.
Grizzle said he sympthatized with the system’s budget woes, but added that the board members needed to continue to look for other ways to save funds.
“We think employees have given enough already,” he said.
Lumpkin County classified employees have reportedly not received a raise in four years.
“We have a really good thing here [in the system],” he said. “This is strictly due to the employees that you’re taking from. Buildings and capitol projects do not educate or care for our children, people do.”
Though the 2013 budget had been approved, Superintendent Dewey Moye said the change would not officially show up in “the books” until September.
“I think the whole board’s going to do what we can,” he said. “You all have a hard job and do a very good job. ... The books close in September and we’ll come back and take another look at it.”
Board member Jim McClure echoed that sentiment.
“We’re searching for the best solution that we possibly can,” he said. “And we appreciate what you all do. ... We’re looking at every way possible.”
Moye said he would meet with classified employees later this month to discuss the issue.
Before leaving the podium, Grizzle displayed a paycheck stub belonging a 23-year-old Lumpkin County bus driving veteran that came out to $668 a month.
He later explained that this was the upper end of the salary scale for himself and his colleagues.
“We’re asked to be janitors, mechanics, nurses, social workers, counselors, babysitters, traffic cops, disciplinarians, radio operators and certified station attendants,” he said while addressing the board earlier in the meeting. “And we’re glad to do this for our modest salary.”
Grizzle remarks were met with a quiet chorus of “amens’ from his fellow bus drivers.