‘Not a living wage’: Upper Adams custodial contractor seeks to raise hourly pay

The Upper Adams School Board on Tuesday weighed a $4.6 million custodial and maintenance contract renewal that would cost the district more while allowing employees to make at least $14.50 an hour.

“I’ve got some folks that are making 10, 11 bucks an hour, and that’s not a living wage based on where we are right now,” Aramark General Manager/Facilities Director Craig Proffen said at Tuesday’s school board committee meeting.

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Aramark provides maintenance, custodial and grounds services to the Upper Adams School District.

Aramark has served the district since 2016, according to Superintendent Wesley Doll.

Aramark proposed a contract of approximately $4.66 million for fiscal years 2025 through 2028. This would represent an increase of roughly 9% over four years to Upper Adams. Proffen attributed most of that figure to salaries and the rising cost of supplies.

In December 2023, Aramark’s proposal stood closer to $4.8 million in the hopes of paying $15 an hour, Proffen said. Then Proffen met with Upper Adams Business Administrator Shelley Hobbs and agreed to revise the proposal, he said.

On any given day, Aramark employees are cleaning restrooms, replacing light bulbs and repairing old furniture to save money, Proffen said. They have also installed security cameras, assisted with demolition in the locker room renovation, rebuilt the high school pitcher’s mound, replaced collapsed security light poles, and more.

Doll described the Aramark staff as “experts” who have taken “a lot of burden off” of the administrative team.

There are 26 Aramark employees at Upper Adams, most of whom are full-time, Proffen said. He used to have more, but he has struggled to hire and retain employees.

“If they can find more money, they’ll leave,” Proffen said. “It’s about paying your bills.”

Proffen said neighboring school districts are paying as much as $16.50 an hour.

“I’m not offering enough money for people in order to want the job,” he said.

Proffen presented to the school board a detailed summary of the work Aramark has completed for Upper Adams.

Afterward, board members decided to put out a request for proposal, RFP, to solicit bids for custodial, grounds and maintenance services. Board member Kay Hollabaugh was absent.

Board member Tricia Plank said she “appreciated” Aramark’s service but would like to compare costs.

“I still feel like we should do our due diligence and see what else is available,” she said.

Loren Lustig and Neil Weigle expressed agreement with Plank.

“By requesting RFPs it’s not in any way indicating that the school district or the school board or anybody else is dissatisfied with Aramark,” Gerald Walmer said. “This is something that it sounds like we feel should be done as a due diligence to the taxpayer.”

The board will next meet Feb. 20 at 7 p.m.

Mary Grace Kauffman, freelance reporter, worked six years as a full-time reporter for newspapers in Pennsylvania and Maryland. She has covered topics including business, crime, education, government and features. Mary Grace has a bachelor's degree in communication/journalism from Shippensburg University. She resides in Adams County.

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