Not Feeling Valued? Board Gives Itself a Raise
On May 10 the Guilford County School Board voted to give itself a raise that could be described as ‘hefty’ in terms of percentage ‘— regular board members will receive $1,225 per month, up from $500; the vice-chairman’s income will increase from $500 to $1,250 a month while the chairman’s salary goes up from $600 a month to $1,525.
The motion will need to be approved by the Guilford County Commission before it can go into effect. School board members have not had a pay raise since 1993.
The proposed pay increase coincides neatly with a report from Newsweek magazine which names all 14 of Guilford County’s traditional high schools as among the top thousand in the nation. And while on the surface this action seems like the expenditure of newly won political capital, we at YES! Weekly believe that there is more to the story than that.
The roughly 150 percent salary increase gives us a chance to crunch some numbers.
Under the new configurations, Chairman Alan Duncan will make $18,300 per year for his duties (supplemental to his salary as a partner at the law firm of Smith Moore LLC); Vice Chairman Anita Sharpe will pull in $15,000 a year and the nine other board members will earn $14,700 annually for their efforts on behalf of Guilford County Schools.
And while people from different socioeconomic classes can argue all day over whether or not this is a lot of money, it seems pretty clear that no one is getting rich by serving on the school board.
Let’s look at the numbers from another angle: the increase in salaries totals $165,600 annually, which admittedly could pay for a lot of chalk and urinal cakes. But this figure represents a mere one-third of one percent of the $500 million that we conservatively estimate the school district’s budget to be.
That’s not a real big piece of the pie.
We do concede that a position on the board is essentially a volunteer one, but it is equally true that board members devote a considerable amount of time each week to their duties, time that therefore can’t be spent earning money at their other jobs. And sure, there are some on the board who can afford to absorb this loss of income. Perhaps all of them can, but that’s not the point. The point is that if people were precluded from serving on the school board because of personal financial limitations, then the board itself would not truly represent this county, where the median household income is estimated at $42,618, according to the 2000 census.
On the surface this pay increase raises some red flags, but when we delve deeper into the numbers, we say let the school board members have their money. It’s not that much, and according to some board members is based on the amount that the county commissioners earn ‘— the same people who will ultimately decide if the raise goes through.