At its Feb. 12 meeting, the Hawkins Co. BOE voted to follow the county commission’s lead and compensate board members for every meeting they attend in a day.
Previously, board members were paid $50 per meeting but for only one meeting per day, regardless of the number of meetings the member actually attended that day.
BOE Chairman Chris Christian told the board that he asked to have the matter placed on this month’s agenda after he attended the January county commission meeting during which the commission passed a similar resolution. He noted that the BOE had discussed the issue prior to the commission’s resolution, however.
“When we debated this before, Ms. Farmer (Finance Director Melissa Farmer) explained to us that we follow the county commission pay process,” Christian told the board. “At the time, they didn’t pay for but one committee meeting per day whether you had two, four, eight or 10. If you were there all day, you got paid for one meeting. Seeing as how the county commission has adjusted their process, I felt like I needed to bring it back before the board.”
“Where is that ruling?” BOE member Bob Larkins asked Christian. “I’ve never seen it or read it.”
“I’ve never seen or read it—I’m just going on the advice of our finance director,” Christian replied.
Both Commissioners Keith Gibson and Nancy Barker were also in attendance at the meeting and noted that neither of them had heard of any such ruling before.
“The resolution in question was from around 1997, and it stated something along the lines that there was an effort to be consistent with pay between the two boards,” Director of Schools Matt Hixson clarified. “I don’t know if it was a ruling or an agreement.”
“Would the commission have the authority to pass a mandate to us, since we’re equally elected?” Larkins asked County Attorney Jim Phillips.
“The statute says that your pay is determined by the Hawkins Co. Commission,” he replied. “So, if they said that the school board should get the same pay as our committees, and their committees’ (pay) is going up, then, of course, it would be across the board.”
Larkins and Vice Chairman Debbie Shedden opposed the motion, but it was approved 5-2.
BOE follows commission
The matter of commissioner compensation was first brought up at a Jan. 21 Budget Committee meeting and was later passed at the Jan. 27 full commission meeting. Thus, Commissioners now earn $100 per commission meeting and $50 per committee meeting.
“Our rationale was that you plan for the meeting whether or not it’s on the same day as something else,” Commissioner Mark DeWitte said at the committee meeting. “You still put your time in for that meeting.”
“There are no material budget consequences based on this (resolution),” County Finance Director Eric Buchanan added. “One, this doesn’t happen that often. Two, when we are setting the budget for all these different committees, we figure in whether they will meet monthly or quarterly, then create a budget that will suffice for that. So, when you coincidently have one that duplicates, you’ll see a slight difference in the bottom dollar, but, as far as budget, we already planned to have those meetings.”