Lotsa buzz about a bill introduced in the Florida Senate this spring to toss out the state formula for calculating the salaries of school board members in the state’s 67 counties.
Introduced by Sen. Steve Wise of Jacksonville, a Republican, it had everybody getting in on the act. Another slam by the GOP-dominated legislature on public schools, brayed the Democrats.
Finally, a realistic measure to address what is basically a corrupt system where salaries are pegged to a county’s population, set artificially high with no accountability, countered the Republicans.
Well, the bill didn’t get very far — dying in committee on April 13. In fact, it got but a single vote, that of Mr. Wise.
Nice try. He made his point and it’s not all lost.
Let’s leave behind school board salaries that range from the low- to mid-$20,000s up to $40,000 annually for large counties.
Let’s instead concentrate on Baker County, which under the present statute, authorizes school board member pay at $25,231.
Is that excessive, considering the district has a $45 million annual budget? No.
Is it excessive considering they get retirement and health benefits and considering that school boards have little or no policy making authority?
Sen. Wise proposed slashing back salaries to $100 a meeting and a maximum of $2400 a year. I’m not sure whether health insurance remained, but at that level of compensation the retirement benefits are almost not worth the while.
Is that too low? Yes, and no doubt it contributed to a lack of support from fellow lawmakers, who as a rule aren’t anxious to alienate local power bases.
But Mr. Wise is on to something. Whether it be formula-based on population or a set amount, lower salaries for elected officers should be fair game — across the board.
Baker County School Board members should be comfortable with, say $1000 monthly plus travel expenses. No benefits.
Part time public service should not entail retirement and health insurance benefits. Granted, the aggregate cost is miniscule up against a $44 million budget, but there’s another consideration.
Public service should have an element of sacrifice and a minimum of personal gain attached to it.
Don’t get me started on salary levels for the full time elected officials — that’s a topic for later. Suffice it to say they are so inflated that even office holders themselves avoid talking about it. When one adds in how much they retire with, and the ever-so-stupid DROP plan — well, let’s let it lie for now.
County commissioners? At $29,440 plus benefits, they are much closer to actually earning it.
Compared to school board members, they have far greater policy making responsibilities.
Glen St. Mary town councilmen? At $190 monthly, they are overpaid. And they never, never, should have been added to the retirement system.
Macclenny commissioners? At $300 monthly (plus retirement benefits and $350 for the mayor) well, who’s gonna argue?
The point is — it’s easy to cross the line from noble public service to personal gain and exceeding a position’s worth to the community.
Mr. Wise’s bill wasn’t going to get anywhere, but it started us talking in the right direction. These matters need airing out from time to time.