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Raises for Shelby County School Board members tabled for a month

Shelby County Commissioner Mike Ritz asked Wednesday to hold off for a month on another vote on whether to raise Shelby County Schools’ board members’ salaries, according to The Commercial Appeal.

Ritz seemed inclined to believe that commissioners, who had voted against increasing the salary from $4,200 to $25,000 during a December meeting, would be amenable to a smaller pay increase.

Last month, only seven commissioners supported the measure. At least nine commissioners need to support the measure in order for it to pass.

Several commissioners said a pay increase wasn’t timely because the board had just laid off hundreds of employees amid drastic budget cuts. But Ritz and other commissioners said it was important that Memphis be able to attract highly-qualified candidates to lead the district. An attractive compensation would help in that endeavor, he said.

School board members in Nashville make $14,000 per year. According to a 2010 National School Board Association survey, almost half of the board members surveyed in districts with more than 15,000 students don’t make any money for serving on the board. But, for those that do get paid, only 9 percent make less than $5,000 a year.

Said Shelby County School Board Chairman Kevin Woods in a TV interview recently: that, “We have not asked for any pay increases. We signed on for a tough job we knew only paid $4,000. We were prepared to take on those responsibilities. I think we’ve done that.”

Had Ritz not asked for the delay at Wednesday’s Economic Development and Tourism committee meeting, the Commissioners were supposed to take the pay increase issue up again during a meeting scheduled Monday. The issue will not be voted on again until it is debated at least twice.

Ritz also said Wednesday that he plans to propose that the Shelby County school board include only nine members next month. The commission previously agreed that the board would expand to include 13 members this September. The proposal will eliminate board representation in the six municipalities that have voted to create separate school districts with separate boards.

The current Shelby County school board has seven members, none of whom are up for re-election this year, according to a Shelby County Schools spokesperson.