Cherokee Central Schools approved for $15 minimum wage

by Oct 25, 2022NEWS ka-no-he-da0 comments


One Feather Reporter


EBCI (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians) Tribal Council unanimously approved a budget increase of $1,380,000 for Cherokee Centrals Schools (CCS) during Annual Council on Monday, Oct. 24.

This request will look to increase the minimum wage of CCS employees to 15 dollars per hour and incorporate a scaled living wage adjustment for those already above that minimum. That wage adjustment ranges from three to six percent based on current salary, with those on the lower end getting a higher increase. Res. No. 429 (2022) was submitted by Cherokee Boys Club Finance Director Ashford Smith and CCS Finance Director Howard Wahnetah, who were both present to answer any questions on the proposal.

“I know you just approved the FY 23 last month. The reason why we didn’t ask for this funding on the front end is because, for us, the budget process begins in March. The outlook now is completely different than it was in March when we began these discussions. At every level of the government. When you look at the Federal level, there was the inflation. Which has been a continued story of everyday life for everyone. In March, we were monitoring the Feds response and they were getting aggressive with raising interest rates and everything. However, now that has not helped that much,” said Smith.

Res. 429 states that the minimum wage coming into the school year for CCS was $12.16 an hour, and that there was nothing in the budget for an additional cost-of-living raise for other employees.

“At the state level, in the state’s FY23 budget, there was a lot of emphasis on teacher salaries. However, one of the biggest aspects of that budget was raising the minimum wage of the custodial workers, facility workers, security. They raised that minimum wage at the state level to 15 dollars an hour, which we have not done at Cherokee Central Schools yet,” said Smith.

The discussion for this increase was reignited and discussed at the beginning of the month by the CCS Board of Education. Questions rose around a minimum wage adjustment after the EBCI made the same move for tribal employees, which became effective on Oct. 1.

“At the local level, the EBCI increased their minimum wage to $15. Now, we’re not trying to create a system that directly competes with EBCI because we realize we’re all one big family. But, at the same time, we now have employees that are happy at the school. They love working at the school. But now, they have to look at the financial decision in front of them. They might have to say, ‘hey, we might have to move on and work with the Tribe because we’re going to get paid and get the same benefits there’.”

Smith also offered an explanation to how and why this increase would be implemented if approved.

“As far as methodology, we used the same method that the Tribe used in their most recent increase and just applied it to our scale. This does not include elected officials or any coaches’ stipends or anything like that.”

There was no discussion or comment made by Tribal Council, as Wolftown Rep. Bo Crowe and Yellowhill Rep. T.W. Saunooke immediately moved to pass. The Council did so unanimously.