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A raise for these Detroit school employees was nine years coming

Detroit district teachers aren’t the only ones getting pay raises.

The Detroit school board on Tuesday was poised to approve new contracts with administrators and food service workers, aiming to curb turnover among district employees. The agreements spell out raises totaling $2.5 million within a year.

Union leaders hailed the contracts as a long-delayed correction following years of financial crisis and fiscal austerity imposed by state-appointed emergency managers. District administrators — a category that includes nearly 300 department heads, auditors, and deans of culture, among other positions — have not received a raise since 2009.

“The passage of this contract will be a large morale boost for members who have waited so long as they watched other unions receive raises and bonuses,” said Deborah Louis-Ake, president of the Organization of School Administrators and Supervisors. “Members are appreciative that they are finally being recognized.”

The administrators will receive a 3 percent raise next year plus a one-time bonus, at an additional cost to the district of $1.6 million. The contract also allows for 31 vacation days annually, 12 days of sick leave, and an extra $50 per year in uniform allowances for district police officers represented by the union.

The district and the administrators’ union didn’t settle on salaries for future years, instead opting for a clause that will reopen negotiations next year.

The district has battled turnover amongst its employees for years, from administrators to teachers.

Luis Solano, the district’s chief of human resources, said in a memo to the board that the new deal with administrators would lead to “increased staff retention rates and increased access to high quality candidates during recruitment.”

Some hourly workers in the district will also get raises, with contracts for food service workers, and garden workers each increasing $1 per hour. For example, a cafeteria attendants wage would increase from $10.82 to $11.82 per hour. Food service specialists would see their wage rise from $13.50 to $14.50 per hour. All hourly raises would be retroactive to Aug. 27, 2018.

Solano said in the memo that the $928,000 total cost of those raises over the next year would help improve cafeteria workers’ quality of life as well as the cafeteria programs that feed the district’s roughly 50,000 students.

The raises come two years after the district — Michigan’s largest — narrowly avoided bankruptcy. As a fiscal crisis loomed in 2016, the Republican-led legislature passed a highly controversial $617 million aid package without the support of Detroit legislators and with plenty of strings attached. The legislation created a new district — called the Detroit Public Schools Community District — which would educate students while the old Detroit Public Schools remained to pay off more than one billion dollars in debt.

The old district has so far kept up on its debt payments. While there were some financial constraints placed on the new district, such as a prohibition against using key borrowing methods, the district’s budget has remained stable. According to data presented to the board on Tuesday by the district’s chief financial officer, its financial surplus is roughly 5 percent of the annual budget, and it is well below budgeted spending on salaries for the year so far.