School board members approve increase to board stipends
EAST SPENCER - Parting Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education members gave future public servants a raise Monday.
The school board voted to increase the annual stipend of regular board members from $2,400 to $3,600.
The chairman will earn $4,800, up from $3,600, while the vice-chair will make $4,200, an increase from $2,400.
The three school board members who serve on the appeals committee will also receive an additional $600 each year.
"I've served on the appeals committee seven years. You can't pay me enough to be on that," Chairman Dr. Jim Emerson said. "Those people deserve exceptional duty, $50 a month is a meager amount for that."
Those pay hikes will cost the district $10,200.
Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom was not present during Monday's meeting.
"Our superintendent had a tough week last week and had to be hospitalized for a short period of time," Emerson said. "She is recovering at home, but she is getting along just fine."
Board member Linda Freeze made the motion for the pay increase.
All four outgoing members including Bryce Beard, Mike Caskey, Emerson and Freeze, along with Kay Wright Norman approved the change.
Vice-Chairwoman Jean Kennedy abstained from the vote and Richard Miller was not present during the meeting.
"We can do it now without getting criticized. This is the best time for us to do this" Beard said, noting the stipend has been the same since he joined the board eight years ago. "This isn't about Linda, this isn't about me. ... We've got to at least keep up with the times."
Board members don't receive any benefits except mileage reimbursement at about 55 cents per mile, the same as district employees.
Caskey, who will be stepping down next month to take his seat on the Rowan County Board of Commissioners, said although it's never politically advantageous for a board to give themselves a raise, he agrees now is the right time.
"Commissioners get paid a lot better," he said. "Considering the amount of hours school board members work, donating time to go out to events and trying to stay in touch with the people we serve, I think it's fair."
Commissioners are paid $12,421 annually with the chairman bringing in $14,906. They each receive $8,040 in health insurance.
Caskey said he knows the board hasn't had a raise in at least 12 years, and feels that since school system employees received a 2.2 percent pay hike this year it's appropriate the board is granted a raise.
Norman said when she joined the board 18 years ago, they received $1,200 each year.
"That sounds good to some people," she said. "I don't know about in your world, but in my world everything is a lot different. I can't even call it pay."
Norman said she doesn't accept reimbursement for travel unless she's going out of town for a conference. Board clerk Bonnie Holder said that's a common practice among board members.
Norman said she feels the board has undervalued itself considering how much county commissioners make.
"We are both elected county-wide boards. Look at the disparity," she said.
The raises will become effective at the Dec. 17 meeting in which the new board members are sworn in.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.