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School board nixes pay increase for trustees

Posted: November 8, 2012 5:49 p.m.
Updated: November 9, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Kershaw County Board of School Trustees members will not see a pay increase next year.

Trustees rejected an initiative to raise their own pay beginning in 2013 at a special Monday night school board meeting, citing overall economic hardships.

Trustee Carol Thompson suggested the pay increase for the board several months ago as she and Trustee Jim Smith will no longer serve on the board come January. Trustees currently receive $75 per meeting and have not had a pay raise since 1984. The increase would have adopted a yearly payment of $5,400 for trustees and $6,000 for the chair, based on the two board meetings and one facilities/finance meeting trustees attend each month, although the board is only required to meet once a month. The board could have also voted for a yearly payment of $3,600 for trustees and $4,000 for the chair. The vote to deny any increase was 7-2.

A salary increase could have only taken affect after a general election where two or more members of the board are newly elected. Kershaw County School District (KCSD) CFO Donnie Wilson looked at school board pay around the state and presented the board with suggested increases in August. Some districts receive no pay and others receive “fairly substantial sums,” he said previously. KCSD Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan said the local area comparison was relevant to the district and that Kershaw County’s trustees work harder than any school board he’s ever worked with. Lancaster’s school board gets $4,800 a year; Richland 2’s $9,600 per year. Newberry County trustees receive $5,400 a year, with the chair getting $6,750 per year. Wilson has said that the Newberry County School District is close in size to Kershaw County’s. Trustees in 31 South Carolina school districts receive no compensation. Trustees noted that Kershaw County Council members currently receive $10,557 each year; the vice-chair gets $11,057, and the chair $16,363.

“This is not for me…. Being on a board takes a lot of time and work,” Thompson said. “I’m sure that the money can be generated without interfering with classrooms.”

Since there are only certain times the board can increase its pay, Smith urged his fellow trustees to vote for the increase. The board had to vote on the increase before Tuesday’s election, which is why it met Monday. Smith said the board is always adjusting, but they may never reach a point where they can vote to increase again. He said he didn’t want the board to deny the increase because county council denied the district’s request for money it was “entitled to.”

“We are only getting part of what others get. The board doesn’t need to be mistreated any longer,” Smith said.

In August, Chair Mara Jones expressed concern that approving pay increases now would come from the district’s general funds and would affect the 2012-2013 budget. Jones suggested the board wait to implement any increase during the next fiscal year. She voted “No” at Monday’s meeting.

“Being on the school board is not a fun political job, it’s a passion for children. Do we deserve it? Yes. Does county council make more pay with less hours? Yes. But I’ve got to commit to the teachers and the classrooms,” Jones said. “I can’t give myself a raise right now; at this point I’ve got to commit to the teachers of Kershaw County.”

New Trustee Derrick Proctor was the first to say “no” to the increase Monday night. Proctor cited Kershaw County Council’s recent millage request denial and the uncertainty of the new bus legislation that might require the district to own and operate its own bus fleet, as well as any repercussions the school district might face in light of the state’s Social Security hacking case.

“I can’t vote for this under these circumstances; but I agree we deserve it,” he said to Thompson and Smith who were persistent in voicing their opinions on why the board deserves the raise.

Trustees Dr. Don Copley, Nissary Wood and Vice-Chair Kim DuRant also said that current state of the district’s budget would not allow them to vote for the increase.

 “I can see both sides of the dilemma and I think it’s a fair amount compared to other districts, but it’s about principle,” Copley said.

Wood and DuRant said they appreciated Smith and Thompson’s efforts, but couldn’t approve an increase when they are trying to strengthen so many aspects of the school district in these economic times.

In other news:

• The board approved new board policies based on the SC School Boards Association Policy and Legislative Update to reflect last year’s legislative session.

• Morgan will meet with the first School Improvement Council on Monday to present Phase II ideas. KCSD Director of Operations Billy Smith adjusted phase two estimates to three schools: Baron DeKalb Elementary, replacement -- $9,548,636 (land included); North Central High, renovation -- $4,664,437.50; Continuous Learning Center, HVAC replacement -- $550,000.

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