Two Charleston County School Board members want to give themselves a raise, and the amount they're proposing would make them the highest paid school board in the state.
The district's elected leaders todaywill consider bumping their pay from $25 per meeting, or roughly $600 annually, to $15,000 per year. Two of three members on the board's policy committee signed off on the proposal -- committee Chairman Elizabeth Moffly and board Vice Chairman Chris Collins.
"$25 is a joke," Moffly said. "I'm just asking to be equitably compensated for the service that I offer."
South Carolina's 85 school districts vary dramatically in what board members are paid. Thirty-one districts pay board members nothing, while the highest paid board members in Horry County receive $9,600 per year. The Horry board's chairman receives $13,440 annually, according to the South Carolina School Boards Association.
Moffly believes the school board's pay should be comparable to that of elected officials on Charleston City Council or Charleston County Council. City Council members receive $15,000 per year, while County Council members receive $14,352 per year. She pointed out even the College of Charleston student body president receives a salary of nearly $10,000 annually.
"And look at us at $25 per meeting," she said.
The pay hike would entice better qualified candidates to run for office, and board members would have a higher level of public accountability because of the additional compensation, she said.
"I don't think constituents are getting good service out of some board members because they only show up for meetings and don't do anything else," she said. "And that's about what you're going to get -- $25 worth of service."
The additional money for the board would be a "drop in the bucket" of what the district has, she said. It's operating budget this year is $334.3 million. Moffly frequently opposes district expenditures, even voting this fall against $681,000 to hire school resource officers to police schools.
The proposal would cost more than $200,000 because the nine board members still would continue receiving mileage for traveling to meetings and the $25 meeting per diem, which totaled about $11,500 last year. The proposal also calls for a raise for constituent board members to $1,500 annually, which would be nearly $70,000.
School board Chairman Chris Fraser said he was surprised to see the pay increase proposal, and he didn't support it. Board members ran for this office knowing it had nominal pay, and he didn't see how the board could in good conscience give itself more money when it's made numerous cuts to schools, he said. Teachers haven't received raises in a few years, he said.
"There's no doubt this job takes a lot of time, and to do it properly takes a lot of time, but I'm not going to vote for myself to get a raise," he said.
The board's raise would have to come out of the general operating budget, which means it would have to be taken from something else, Fraser said. The money would be better spent other ways, such as hiring reading specialists for high schools, he said.
Board member Toya Hampton Green agreed. She said she's never heard prospective school board candidates say they might not run for office because of money; usually, their reasons involve time, work or family, she said. And, even if the board has the right to increase its pay, she said it seemed like a conflict of interest to do so.
"I feel like it's in poor taste," she said. "It's a bad climate to request a pay raise of how many hundreds percentage increase. It's not why I ran, and it didn't affect my choice (to run)."