LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The chief business officer of Jefferson County Public Schools says he understands why some people are upset over the district's recommendation to freeze the salaries of some employees and boost the salaries of others.

The recommendations -- which stem from the long-awaited comprehensive salary study released last week -- include no “step” or cost of living increase in 2016-17 for all employees earning more than $14 an hour. That includes all of the district’s roughly 6,000 teachers.

Meanwhile, the district will seek authorization from the school board to negotiate a percentage increase in 2016-17 for only those employees earning less than $14 an hour.

"I understand why they are upset," said Tom Hudson, who was named the district's chief business officer in November. "They've done this for years, giving 3 to 4 percent raises for years and now all of a sudden we are saying no."

Hudson, who makes $176,000 and is the second-highest paid employee in JCPS, said the district is "OK with paying a premium to attract and retain teachers."

"We are getting a value out of that investment," he said. 

However, in an effort to figure out how to proceed with a “fair and equitable system,” district officials say their recommendation is to “freeze the salaries of all 14,000 district employees this year, with the exception those who make less than $14 an hour.”

Hudson could not say how many of the district's employees make under $14 an hour.

The school board was expected to vote on the salary freeze recommendation on May 10, but a top district official told WDRB late Monday it would not be on the agenda for that day.

All of the recommendations are subject to negotiations with the district's unions that represent different employee groups.

The salary study found that JCPS is paying "above market salaries” for roughly 7,000 employees, including administrators and school personnel.

"What I don't understand is why the community hasn't been outraged that we've paid these people this much money over the years," he said. "Everyone knows we are paying them a premium."

One reason why JCPS has higher salaries than those in peer districts is because the pay of senior classified administrators and classified staff was linked to that of teachers in 1998, Hudson said.

"That means that when teachers got raises, so did administrators," he said.

A statement released from Superintendent Donna Hargens on Monday said that the district may not consider increasing salaries, subject to negotiations, until a "path forward is developed to achieve internal and external equity."

Four unions that met early Monday morning to discuss how to combat the district’s plan.

In addition, teachers, staff, parents and community members held "walk-ins" at five schools on Monday.

In all, nearly 100 of the district's 155 schools have planned walk-ins this week to protest recent proposals announced by the district: loosening punishments for in-school offenses and freezing salaries of some JCPS employees.

The walk-ins were discussed during last week's emergency meeting of the Jefferson County Teachers Association's organizing committee, but officials with three of the other unions who represent the district's employees told WDRB News their employees will also participate.

In addition, the unions urged all of their employees to wear red Monday to show their support for education. JCTA has been encouraging the use of the social media hashtag #WearRed4Ed.

Aside from the walk-ins and encouraging employees to wear red Monday, union representatives tell WDRB they are encouraging all of their members to attend the JCPS school board meeting on May 10.

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Reporter Antoinette Konz can be reached at 585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

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