Lexington-Richland 5 school board members are giving themselves a pay increase that more than doubles their current yearly salary, making them among the highest-paid in the state.
The board approved a new salary of $9,600 late Monday, raising it from the $3,750 stipend that its members were paid for at least 30 years, according to research by the district’s financial officer.
Board chairman Robert Gantt described the raise Tuesday as “an attempt to bring it up to date.”
Lexington-Richland 5 is the only board in Lexington County that pays a salary to its school board members.
Neighboring Richland County boards pay salaries, with Richland 1 paying up to $6,750 a year. Richland 2, the Midlands’ largest school district, pays the same as Lexington-Richland 5, according to the S.C. School Boards Association.
Of 81 districts statewide, 51 pay salaries to board members, with Lexington-Richland 5 and Richland 2 among those paying the most, the S.C. School Boards Association said.
“Serving on the school board is an honor, but it also takes time away from our families and puts added pressure on those who are juggling a full-time job and school board responsibilities,” Lexington-Richland 5 board vice chairwoman Beth Burn Watson said Tuesday.
The Lexington-Richland 5 raise is under attack by some as too much, even though board members say the amount is making up for the failure of predecessors to adjust pay periodically.
“It is arrogant, a board run amok,” former board member Jan Hammond said Tuesday.
The raise for the six board members – there is one vacancy – is part of a spending plan for the year starting July 1. Its presence went unnoticed until discussion on it flared as the plan moved toward adoption.
The increase in Lexington-Richland 5 equals inflation during the past 30 years, district chief financial officer Karl Fulmer said Tuesday.
“It takes a team to ensure our district provides the opportunities to help each child reach his or her greatest potential,” Watson said. “The school board plays a significant role on that team and it is only fair to increase the stipend to 2013 levels.”
Lexington-Richland 5 schools are rated among the best in South Carolina in academic performance. The board oversees classrooms with more than 16,000 students in Chapin, Dutch Fork, Irmo, Harbison and St. Andrews, the fourth-largest enrollment in the Midlands.
An annual pay adjustment that is tied to inflation may be on the horizon, Watson said.
That’s similar to what Lexington County Council does, although raises for its members are given every two years.
In other business: Taxes going up
Commercial property taxes are increasing in Lexington-Richland 5 to pay for police in every elementary school and to improve kindergarten for 4-year-old students.
A raise of nearly $44 on each $100,000 in business equipment and property was approved by school board members late Monday.
School officials also are looking at opening police substations at or near two schools to provide more security for their youngest students.
Board members Jim Turner and Ellen Baumgardner lost an effort to stop the tax hike.
Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.