Sumter County Board of Education votes to triple their pay

Published 10:31 am Saturday, February 11, 2023

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Tracy K. Hall

The Sumter County Board of Education (BOE) met for their regular meeting on Thursday, February 9, 2023. A topic which garnered conversation was raising the BOE stipend. Currently, and supposedly for 2o years, the compensation has been $200 per month. Chair Sylvia Roland asked the BOE if they wanted to take up the matter, to which several indicated they did. EJ Jackson brought forth a motion to mirror Crisp County’s Board of Education and pay $300 per board member, per meeting. The BOE has two meetings regularly scheduled on the calendar. In addition to these, he requested $300 per retreat as well as called meeting. While most retreats are scheduled, called meetings by their very nature are not and there is no way of determining how many will be demanded. Called meetings are typically to take a vote on a time sensitive matter, and usually take no longer than 30-45 minutes. At minimum the BOE would be paid $600 per month, triple the amount they are currently receiving. It was established the BOE member would have to be present at the meeting to receive their stipend. This funding would come out of local taxes.

If the BOE wishes to change their stipend, there is a rather exhaustive process which much be followed. This has to be presented in the Georgia Legislature to come to fruition. The first step is for the BOE to vote to increase or change the rate of pay. Sumter County Schools then has their lawyers draft a resolution stating they have voted to increase or change their pay. Public notice would be given. A legislator then has to agree to take the item to the capitol floor for a vote. The state level representatives vote on the item and depending upon the outcome the BOE may then change the rate of pay. At one point it was suggested this conversation be tabled or dropped. Walter Knighton told the BOE that Georgia Legislative session is 40 days long and at the time, they were into day 15. Should they vote to increase their pay, to keep in mind it would not hit the legislative floor until next year if the session had been closed. They BOE decided to not table or drop the discussion and take a vote.

When the item was brought up, Abyss Bivins asked if insurance was included in an increase in pay.  In speaking Jackson wanted to mirror Crisp County. His suggestion was “300 per meeting, work session and regular meeting and all other meetings the same.” Rick Barnes asked, “Why are we thinking we need an increase?” EJ responded, “Why are we thinking we need an increase? As I mentioned previously, of course we all signed up for this position, which is the truth. It’s also an elected position. I feel like the work we do, it’s great work. However, everybody else in the city—county commissioners, city council, everyone is paid some substance except when it comes to us and we hold the most prized possession which are the kids. No, we can never be compensated for what we do, but if it was $200 for 20-30 years and here we are at 2023. We always talk about being equitable across the field, that’s just my suggestion, I don’t think there a necessary reason as to why, cause we aren’t doing it for the money, but at same sense, everyone on the board deserves something, that’s just me.” Bivins then offered her thoughts. “It’s been there for over 20 years; everything calls for an increase every now and then. I feel like it’s fair we get a raise somewhere…..we deal with the most money, we doing a lot to keep the school going, the kids in place, Mr. Knighton, working with him….after 20 years it’s time for a raise.” She refenced the pay in our district and said they were getting paid “$200 plus.” “Everybody might not agree, and if we put it to a vote and we win, if you don’t want it, then you can donate it. We should be able to get an increase at some point in time.” EJ made the motion, “Board members are paid $300 per meeting, work session and regular session and all other meetings are the same.” There were some questions about “what all other meetings are the same meant.” Ultimately it was determined the two monthly meetings, retreats, and called meetings. Abyss Bivins seconded it.

Rick Barnes stated, “So we are proposing going from $200 per month stipend–to serve our county and our kids and do what we ran for office to do….and we all knew it was $200 per month, period. Now we are proposing going from $200 per month to a minimum $600 a month, tripling the stipend. If we have a called meeting, it’s another $300. If we have a retreat it’s another $300. So the motion is to triple or quadruple to stipend for the service that you signed up for to the county and the kids. I do not agree with that. I do not agree that it is fair raise. I did not sign up for a raise. A raise for what? Do we intend to do four times the work, or three times the work at these meetings? Yet we are supposing to triple up.  So I guess the return on the investment, I like to talk about, if we are going to triple up the salaries, what do we propose to do three times better than what we are doing?” There was no response to Barnes’ comment. Harris asked if it was necessary to include the called meeting. Jackson said it was a suggestion. On the motion Jackson made, a vote was taken. In favor of the motion was Jackson, Bivins, Kearse, and Harris. Rick Barnes opposed the motion and Hamilton abstained with no clear conflict articulated.

Rick Barnes pointed out the item was not on the agenda. The agenda as written was approved at the beginning of the meeting and to add an item to an agenda, it must be done at the beginning of the meeting, and typically everyone has to vote in favor of the addition. There was further conversation on this piece and finally the BOE decided the vote was null and to have a called meeting to vote on the item on Monday, February 13. On Friday, February 10, SCS sent out a notice that the meeting was cancelled. However, the item is set to be on the agenda in March.

In addition to this item the BOE approved the consent agenda, to do away with committee meetings, to honor Georgia law which makes masks optional, and to have a hard bid process to build a fieldhouse which will not exceed $1,685, 148.

This meeting can be found on the SCS Facebook page of the same name. The next meeting is March 6, 2023, at 6pm. The meeting is located at 100 Learning Lane and is open to the public.