[image-1]The Charleston County School Board made the first step forward in approving a substantial pay raise for themselves and constituent school board members.

Gaining initial approval from board members Kevin Hollinshead, Rev. Chris Collins, Michael Miller, Chris Staubes, and Rev. Eric Mack, board members would receive 40 percent of the base salary of a first-year teacher, which is set at $36,070. This means that trustees would earn almost $14,500 a year more than their current pay rate of just $25 per meeting attended, plus the cost of travel. The effort was opposed by board members Todd Garrett and Kate Darby. Board members Cindy Bohn Coats and Priscilla Jeffery abstained.

In addition to the annual salary for all board members, the board chair would receive an extra $1,000 per year under the new plan. The district’s constituent board members would also receive a pay hike, bringing in just over $7,200 per year.

While the new plan for pay increases will require another round of approval from the board at their July meeting, the prospect of a pay increase gained support from some constituent board members who spoke in favor of the new policy.

“I personally went out and tried to recruit candidates last year for the county school board and constituent school boards. For the first time in 20 years, if not more, we were able to have candidates for all seats … The No. 1 problem that I had with convincing people was the amount of commitment and the fact that actually you have to invest your own personal money to fulfill your duties,” said District 1 Constituent School Board member Joe Bowers. “I think that this proposal is a modest proposal.”

Board member Chris Staubes echoed Bowers’ remarks, saying that constituent board members deserve more in the way of compensation for their time and commitment to the district. While a majority of board members who voted on the pay increase were ready to move forward with the proposal, uncertainty remained as to where the almost $500,000 in added salaries would be pulled from in the district’s operating budget.

“Where would that come from in the budget? We have a balanced budget now, so if we add this we have to cut something,” Darby said to her fellow members of the board. “I just want to say I understand why we’re doing this and I agree with what you’re saying that the compensation that we have right now doesn’t necessarily make sense with the work that is done by both the constituent boards and the county board. I do feel strongly that we should take this through the Committee of the Whole process as we do other items. We should figure out what it’s going to cost and where it’s going to come from in the budget … and make it effective after the next election. I have tremendous heartburn, when the budget passed by five votes, that we’re now going to add $400,000 annually to the budget for our own compensation.”