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School Board sets boost in pay using old system

School Board members peg raises at what they would have been if the Legislature still set their salaries.

By KENT FISCHER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 3, 2002

LAND O'LAKES -- Pasco County School Board members are expected to approve a new salary plan today that would give each of them a $931 raise.

It's the same amount they would have received under the old system in which the state Legislature determined board salaries. A new law now requires that each school board set its own pay scale.

Pasco's five board members currently are paid $31,975 annually. That figure was determined by a legislative formula that ties salaries to the population growth of the counties in which the board serves. The proposed new salary of $32,906 was calculated using that same formula, and amounts to a 3 percent raise. Teachers will receive a 6 percent raise next year under a contract approved this past summer.

The Florida School Boards Association recommended the new pay scale to boards around the state. The recommendations were based on the old legislative formula, according to a letter from board member Kathleen Wolf.

"They're not getting anything more than they would have received otherwise," said superintendent John Long. "They're just keeping the status quo."

The Legislature will continue to set the salaries of other public officials, such as county commissioners, tax collectors and sheriffs.

Some find it suspicious that the Legislature would change the rules for school boards, but not for other civil servants.

Such salary votes almost certainly will be used as campaign fodder at re-election, said the head of Pasco's teachers union.

"I can't help but believe that this is a little bit vindictive," said Lynne Webb, president of the United School Board Employees of Pasco. "We've seen certain associations recently -- the unions, the superintendent's association, the school board association -- becoming more vocal in criticizing the governor. (The change) just seems a little suspicious."

School Board Chairwoman Cathi Martin said she expects the salary plan, which will be voted on annually, to become a campaign issue. Martin, who won re-election to the board this past summer, said she thinks the raise is justified.

"It's not a tremendous raise, and our record speaks for itself," she said. "None of us (ran for the board) for the money."

Webb said that the proposed raise "seems reasonable" and that the union wouldn't speak against it.

"It doesn't seem outlandish," she said. "We're the 13th-largest district in the state. The job has increasing demands."

Board members in Pinellas make $35,391; $35,777 in Hillsborough; and $27,755 in Hernando.

-- Kent Fischer covers education in Pasco County. He can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6241 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6241. His e-mail address is .

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