A Tale of Two Districts: Responding To Severe Fiscal Problems

Hamtramck, Clintondale have $42K per year janitors who pay nothing for health care premiums

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In 2011, Hamtramck and Clintondale public school districts had similar situations with their budgets and custodial and maintenance staff.

Both districts had a budget deficit of $4.9 million, both districts had custodians making on average between $42,000 and $43,000 a year. And both districts paid 100 percent of the health care premiums for those employees.

But Hamtramck made a drastic change in how it compensates its custodians.

Hamtramck Superintendent Thomas Niczay said the custodian’s contract was changed in October. Custodians took a 25 percent pay cut and are now paying 20 percent of their health care costs. All new custodian hires are paid $10 an hour, Niczay said.

Hamtramck has 28 full-time custodial maintenance workers who made an average of $42,538 in 2011, according to documents received in a Freedom of Information Act request. All salaries include overtime. That’s about $1,500 more a year than a starting teacher makes in the district.

Wendy Day, president of Common Sense in Government and a former school board member for Howell Public Schools, said rather than such draconian cuts, she’d prefer looking at privatization of custodial services. Day said that has worked out at her school district when they privatized custodians when she was on the board.

Clintondale had 23 custodians and maintenance people who averaged $43,359 a year. That’s about the same as a second-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree in the district.

Michael Van Beek, education policy director at the Mackinac Center, said that Clintondale custodians would have to pay the state-mandated 20-percent of their health care costs per state law when their contract expires in 2013.

Clintondale appears to pay 100 percent of the premiums for its custodians and maintenance workers. Generally, the only cost sharing by employees is specifically listed in the contract. Clintondale officials didn’t respond to emails trying to confirm the district pays 100 percent of health care premiums.

Clintondale Superintendent George Sassin didn’t respond to emails seeking comment.

Day said it was “crazy” if it is true that Clintondale is paying for all health care costs for custodians.

“That is fiscal irresponsibility on the part of the board,” Day said.

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See also:

Coverage of School District Claiming Cuts

Helpful Facts About Michigan's Public Sector

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