School Board Members Ready to Give Themselves Raises; They'll Also Set Policy Tuesday on the Formula for Determining the Amount of Salary Hikes

Article excerpt

Byline: TIA MITCHELL, The Times-Union

The Duval County School Board plans to approve pay raises for itself Tuesday.

The board members will also set a policy for giving themselves raises every year. Chairwoman Nancy Broner said setting a policy is the best way for board members to set their salaries without making the issue too political.

Broner expects this year's vote will not produce much of a public outcry. That is in contrast to last year, when School Board members approved their raises at the same time they approved a new contract for teachers that gave them smaller raises than previous years.

Broner said last year was a tight budget year, which made collective bargaining rough. Tension escalated once the board voted on its own salaries, an $800 raise to $36,436.

The raises were based on a recommendation by the Florida School Boards Association based on the same formula the state used to set school board salaries before the Legislature passed a law in 2002 that required board members to vote on their own raises. The formula is based on the size of the county and usually results in a pay raise of several hundred dollars each year.

This year, the School Board is expected to again approve a raise based on the association's recommendation. The salary will be $37,032, about a 1.6 percent increase.

The first school year after the law was enacted, the board approved a pay increase and received no complaints.

The matter was further complicated last year when the city General Counsel's Office concluded that the School Board vote was unnecessary because pay raises are automatic under Duval County's consolidated government.

School Board attorney LaShanda Dawkins said Wednesday that the General Counsel's Office later concluded the 2002 law superseded the city charter instead of the other way around.

"The state actually repealed those [city] laws years ago, but the city never took it off our books," Dawkins said.

To avoid pressure about pay raises in the future, the School Board will add a clause to its policy manual that says it will follow the Florida School Boards Association recommendation every year.

"We want to remove politics from the process, which is where the use of the formula has worked for all these 30-something years," Broner said.

Tommy Hazouri is a newly elected member of the School Board but has seen a fair share of debate about elected officials' salaries during his tenure as the city's mayor and a state legislator.

Raises don't have to be automatic for any elected official, but the method for deciding on a raise should be inflexible, Hazouri said. …