Until very recently, more than 400 School Department employees were paid less than the $12 per hour state minimum wage.

A few were paid as little as 9.60 per hour.

At the request of Mayor James Fiorentini, the School Committee voted unanimously last week to raise the pay of 440 workers to $12 per hour.

"I was surprised," Fiorentini said of learning that so many school employees were earning less than that.

The mayor pointed out that municipalities are exempt from the state minimum wage law. Nevertheless, raising the pay of bus monitors, cafeteria workers and other workers was the right thing to do, he said.

"I just don't think it's fair," he said, that so many school employees were paid so little.

The workers who made less than $12 per hour included bus monitors, cafeteria workers, after-school and summer-school instructors and supervisors, lifeguards, crossing guards, interns and various substitute clerks, custodians and teachers, according to the mayor's office.

The majority were paid $10, $10.50 or 11.50 per hour, with a low of $9.60 for around 35 workers.

All workers employed by the non-school portion of Haverhill's government – the "city side" – are now paid at least $12 per hour, Fiorentini said.

“I did this previously for city workers and frankly it’s overdue for school employees,” the mayor said. “These are exactly the people who need a little boost and I intend to lobby strongly on their behalf.“

The Massachusetts minimum wage is set to rise incrementally over the next five years until it reaches $15 per hour in 2023. Gov. Charlie Baker signed the bill increasing it from $11 to $12 per hour in June of last year.

The pay raise will add about $200,000 to the budget, according to the mayor. It will be covered by the additional $3.7 million in Chapter 70 state aid to schools that Haverhill recently received, he said.

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