Legislation to increase Columbia County school board members' pay should be introduced Monday in the Georgia House of Representatives.
"Our goal is to eventually get it to county commission (level)," state Rep. Ben Harbin said. "That's what they've asked for."
School board members are paid $2,400 a year to cover their costs, while the chairman receives $3,000. Columbia County commissioners are paid $6,500, and their chairman earns $10,500.
A few months ago, school board members asked local legislators to look at improving board members' pay to make it comparable with the county commission. They asked that it be phased in after the 2000 election.
The legislation would most likely institute the increase over three years, Mr. Harbin said. But he said there are details to work out, such as how much the school board chairman's pay should be increased compared to the rest of the board. Mr. Harbin expected to meet with other local legislators Thursday to discuss details.
Any salary increase would take effect next Jan. 1 -- after three of the five school board seats are open for election. Those seats are currently held by Chairman Ray Hicks, Vice Chairwoman Roxanne Whitaker and board member Debbi Brooks. Qualifying for those seats is slated for June 26-30.
"I have always felt it should be a phased-in increase so it would not be a burden at any one time," Mrs. Brooks said. "But I would like to see it be the same as the county commissioners."
School board member Mildred Blackburn -- who took office last year -- said she didn't realize board members received pay until after she was elected. And with responsibilities of the job, she said, equal pay would be nice but she wouldn't be hurt if the board didn't receive it.
"I sure didn't run for the pay," Mrs. Blackburn said.
People who run for the school board don't do it for money, Mrs. Brooks said, adding that pay helps cover board members' expenses.
Mr. Harbin agreed that school board members' pay should be comparable to county commissioners' salaries.
"They handle a much larger budget, and they all work just as hard," Mr. Harbin said. "And just because it's education, actually today they're working harder than they've ever worked before."
Reach Peggy Ussery at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 112.
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