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Charleston school board members vote to give themselves pay raises

(WCIV)

Charleston County's School Board members gave first approval Monday to a proposal that would significantly increase their own pay.

If the proposal passes a second reading in July, each of the board's nine members will begin drawing a salary of over $14,400 each year. Charleston County's 50 constituent board members also will begin making more than $7,200 annually as part of the proposed pay raise.

The board passed first reading of the proposal Monday with a 5-2 vote. Board members Chris Collins, Kevin Hollinshead, Eric Mack, Michael Miller and Chris Staubes voted "Yes." Kate Darby and Todd Garrett voted "No." Priscilla Jeffery and Cindy Bohn Coats abstained.

Right now, board members get $25 per meeting, up to $1,000 a year. If the board votes to pass the proposal in second reading, the pay increase would cost taxpayers over $400,000 a year.

School Board Chairwoman Kate Darby said she doesn’t know where it will come from.

“We're going to have to find $400,000 to cut in the budget,” Darby said.

“I am in total agreement that the compensation per diem of $25 a meeting that was set in 1968 needs to be revisited,” Coats said during the meeting, although she did not cast a vote.

The Rev. Chris Collins said the pay increase would help hold board members accountable.

“We have board members that ... don’t have a real commitment here," Collins said. "We’re trying to get people that are interested in working for children, that are concerned with education and concerned with the community and represent the wishes of the community."

The school board was also at odds when it came to a decisions regarding school buses on James Island. Right now, buses that transport students to and from school are being housed at Fort Johnson Middle School.

The island is home to two middle schools, Fort Johnson and James Island Middle. The two schools are combining and construction is expected to begin next year. The buses will need a new home by January 2018.

On Monday, the board passed a proposal to house the buses at Gresham Meggett School, the first school on James Island built for African American students. The board says they will preserve the building.

Some community members are not pleased with that option. During the meeting, residents from the island said that public meetings were held, but the community did not agree with the idea of buses being housed at Gresham Meggett.

Coats said, “It's a situation where I don't think we're going to agree, and I don't have $800,000 to buy the third option on the list. Options one and two, we already own. We have a due diligence to use as our taxpayer money in the class room as much as possible.”

The board will discuss and vote on all these topics at their next board meeting on July 17. The district will also be hosting the third of 11 listening sessions on Wednesday, June 28. The meeting is from 6-7:30 p.m., 75 Calhoun Street, Charleston.

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