Howard County Board of Education members soon might be getting a raise. Board members are working on sending an official request to the Howard County delegation, Board Chairman Frank Aquino said this week.
If the legislation is approved by the 2014 General Assembly, board members could make $18,000 a year, up from their current compensation of $12,000. The board chair could make $20,000, up from $14,000.
"We haven't had anyone review the compensation in quite some time," Aquino said. "The demands of the position have increased over time, I believe. It's a difficult position; we spend a significant amount of time performing our board duties, both officially and unofficially, and it was time to have this discussion and make this suggestion."
The board decided to ask the delegation for a pay raise at its meeting Sept. 12, and put forth the suggestion to elected officials at a legislative breakfast last week. The delegation asked the board to put forth an official request and the matter would be explored.
"On the surface, they do an incredible amount of work for $12,000 a year," said Delegate Guy Guzzone, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee and serves as the House chairman for the Howard delegation. "It doesn't even come close to compensating them for what they do."
Guzzone said the delegation would look at how school boards in neighboring jurisdictions are compensated and the amount of time Howard board members put into their jobs and "come up with a fair solution for them. My gut [feeling] is that we'll do something."
The board also asked the delegation to help establish a $5,000 scholarship for the student member of the board.
The last time school board members received a pay raise was in 2000. Prior to that, they were making $9,900 a year and the chair was making $11,000. In neighboring counties, school board members' salaries vary dramatically. In Montgomery County, members make $25,000 a year and the chair makes $29,000. In Anne Arundel County, it's $6,000 a year for members and $8,000 a year for the chair. In Frederick County, it's $10,000 for members and $11,000 for the chair. In Prince George's County, board members make $18,000 a year and the chair makes $19,000.
The local delegation would have to file and consider a bill and also hold a public hearing. The bill would be introduced to the state legislature early next year. While bills typically become law July 1 or Oct. 1 following the session, Guzzone said, in all likelihood an approved raise would take effect at the start of new board terms in 2014 and 2016.
Several board members said the proposal was overdue and would help convince more people to run for the board in future years.
"We can use it as a recruiting tool, in getting good people to run who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford considering it," said board member Cindy Vaillancourt. "That's been my position all along, that increased compensation would help truly foster diversity on the board — actual, economic diversity."
A better salary would encourage more people to run, board member Sandra French said, because "the marketplace talks. That's just the reality of society.
"How can you create a diverse board when people look at the hours mandated and the compensation and say 'it's just not worth it'?" French said. "It's reasonable for people to expect compensation that's respectable."
Board Vice Chairman Brian Meshkin said that while board members deserve greater pay, the public should decide whether board members get a raise. He suggested creating a review committee made up of citizens to examine compensation, similar to what the County Council does.
"I don't think it's appropriate for elected officials to vote themselves a pay raise," he said. "It should be up to the citizens — they're the boss and we're the employees. (A task force) would be the most prudent thing to do."