Burbank school district weighs compensation comparison study

Burbank Unified officials are looking to hire a consultant to create a compensation study months after school board members heard concerns that some employees are not adequately paid compared to comparable workers in other districts.

The district may hire Ewing Consulting Inc., based in San Clemente, to survey 12 to 15 districts and draw comparisons. The study would not focus on teachers’ pay, but rather the compensation of the district’s classified employees — such as custodians, instructional aids, maintenance workers, secretaries and computer lab technicians.

Earlier this month, Anita Schackmann, director of human resources for Burbank Unified, introduced a proposal to hire Ewing Consulting, saying the last time the district conducted a compensation study was during the 1988-89 school year.

“It’s time to take a look,” she said.

School board member Larry Applebaum said employee compensation is important and agreed the time has come to analyze it.

“I think this is something we’ve struggled with for a long time because we have a lot of employees who believe they are not being paid fairly relative to what their value would be in a competing district,” he said. “You want to have every employee feel like they’re getting paid fairly. We may never be able to give them as much as somebody else. But it has to be fair and it has to be fair across the board.”

Months ago, Tron Burdick, a labor representative with the California School Employees Assn. — the union representing classified employees — told the Burbank Unified School Board that pay for district employees falls far below what their counterparts in other districts make.

“The district has said numerous times to us that they want to hire and retain qualified persons,” he said in February. “At the wages, the way they are, that’s going to become more and more difficult for the district to do.”

He also said Burbank Unified is “way overdue” to commission a study — with many other districts conducting them about every seven years — and, if they fall behind, every 10 years at least.

The employee union conducted a survey last year that compared compensation in school districts according to their geographic locations.

“Many of Burbank’s benchmark positions were in the bottom 10 percentile in the study,” Burdick said. “At the very least, you should be in the middle some place.”

That study prompted Burbank school officials to hire a consultant that would survey other districts similar to Burbank Unified, Schackmann said.

“We were appreciative of that information and it provided the impetus for us to get going,” she said. “The reason we are going with the Ewing group [is because] their study is a little more pinpointed to match districts like ours...They’re really equipped to doing the level of detail that we need to compare.”

Ewing Consulting has produced hundreds of studies on city and school employees’ compensation rates. Its study will also entail reviewing job descriptions and reporting on what other districts pay in health and retirement benefits.

In the coming weeks, the Burbank School Board is expected to vote on whether to hire Ewing Consulting to perform the study at a cost of $80,000. and the study results could be completed in 14 weeks, according to the proposal.

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