Originally created 02/18/99

Legislative deadline may block pay raise

The Augusta legislative delegation is considering the Richmond County Board of Education's request for a pay raise, but it may take some time to settle on a figure.

Too much time.

With only 17 working days left in the 1999 General Assembly session, lawmakers may not have enough time to reach an agreement before the deadline for new legislation.

And legislators didn't seem inclined to approve one local suggestion: that the pay be doubled from $4,000 to $8,000 a year.

School board members say they don't know who suggested doubling the salaries. The board voted last Thursday to send the delegation a resolution suggesting several pieces of legislation for the session, including a salary bill.

The school board resolution said the question of pay has not been reviewed since 1989.

"Even if it's doubled, it won't be proportionate in the next 10 years," said board member Adna Stein, referring to the 10-year stint between salary reviews. "Whatever they suggest is what I will live with."

Currently, board members make $4,000. Board President Mary Oglesby gets $5,000, and Vice President Andrew Jefferson earns $4,500.

Mr. Jefferson said the board agreed to leave the salary suggestion in the hands of the Legislature.

"We looked at other counties of similar size," Mr. Jefferson said. "If it means doubling or increasing our salaries to bring them in line with counties of similar size, I have no problem with it."

Newly elected board member John Seitz said he doesn't feel comfortable accepting a raise when voters put him in office at his current salary.

While some legislators agree the board needs a raise, a 100 percent increase may not go over well.

"I hesitate to double their salary," said Sen. Don Cheeks, D-Augusta. "They definitely need a raise."

House Speaker Pro Tem Jack Connell, D-Augusta, the delegation's chairman, assigned a committee of lawmakers to come up with a figure.

Rep. Robin Williams, R-Augusta, noted that Richmond County's school board is paid less than education panels of similar size in Georgia.

Among the figures suggested at Wednesday's delegation meeting was $7,200 a year for board members, $7,800 for the vice president and $8,400 for the president.

However, even if legislation is enacted this session, the pay raise wouldn't take effect until at least 2000.

And Mr. Williams said with Augusta lawmakers juggling dozens of other bills, agreeing to an amount and getting legislation through the General Assembly this session will be difficult.

"It's so late. I would be surprised if we passed something," he said.

Faith Johnson can be reached at (706) 823-3765 or faithj@augustachronicle.com. James Salzer is based in Atlanta and can be reached at (404) 589-8424 or mnews@mindspring.com.


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