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Sarasota School Board approves $15 minimum wage for district employees, effective this year

Sarasota Herald-Tribune logo Sarasota Herald-Tribune 4 days ago Steven Walker, Sarasota Herald-Tribune

The Sarasota County School Board unanimously approved a $15-per-hour minimum wage for all district employees in its meeting at Longboat Key Tuesday evening.

Sarasota County Schools' new minimum wage takes effect this year — a largely ceremonial increase as the vast majority of district employees already earn more than that. The change keeps the district in line with what Florida voters passed by a constitutional amendment ballot measure in the November 2020 election.

Under Florida law, the minimum wage is $10 per hour and will increase to $15 an hour by 2026.

The change passed during the board's consent agenda section, meaning no discussion on the change took place during Tuesday's meeting. The increase will take effect in October to allow the district to negotiate with the Sarasota Classified/Teachers Association. For district-appointed employees, the increase starts July 1.

More education news: School Board candidate decides against attending campaign event hosted by local Proud Boys activist

Also: Sarasota School Board denies for-profit charter application for school near Wellen Park

Sarasota County School Board meeting was held at the Longboat Key Town Hall on Tuesday, June 21, 2022. © THOMAS BENDER/HERALD-TRIBUNE Sarasota County School Board meeting was held at the Longboat Key Town Hall on Tuesday, June 21, 2022.

The increase comes amid a national labor shortage and specifically a district bus driver shortage. While bus drivers already make $17.67 per hour, the change should help staff lunchroom and other positions that were previously under $15 per hour.

During his superintendent report, Brennan Asplen said the district's hiring efforts this summer are going well and they expect to have no vacancies by the start of the school year. 

"Our goal obviously, especially in the instructional areas, is for no vacancies whatsoever once the school year starts," Asplen said. "Hopefully we'll get to that point."

During the meeting, the board also approved Asplen's new contract.  The contract included a 3% raise to his $227,000 salary, which represents a $6,810 pay increase. Some contract incentives are pending his performance evaluation, which the board plans to conduct this fall.

The deal did not include a requirement for a minimum of four affirmative votes in order to fire Asplen without cause.

Sarasota County School Superintendent Brennan Asplen during a school board meeting held at Longboat Key Town Hall on Tuesday, June 21, 2022. © THOMAS BENDER/HERALD-TRIBUNE Sarasota County School Superintendent Brennan Asplen during a school board meeting held at Longboat Key Town Hall on Tuesday, June 21, 2022.

After the district employee wage increase passed, board member Shirley Brown applauded the change, saying it was overdue.

"It was something I campaigned on because I thought our employees need a livable wage," she said.

While the increase might not relieve the bus driver shortage, Brown said the board is looking into adding a signing bonus and a referral bonus for bus drivers in the near future.

This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Sarasota School Board approves $15 minimum wage for district employees, effective this year

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