CCSD trustees respond to controversial pay raise

CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Charleston County School District board members on both sides of the controversial pay raise vote are coming forward to discuss legal matters of their decision to bump their compensation from $25 per meeting to more than $14,000 per year.

The board voted 4-2 in favor of a $14,428 raise for board members last week. Two trustees were absent and one abstained.

Days later a Charleston resident filed a lawsuit against the CCSD board saying they do not legally have the right to raise their own pay.

Trustee Michael Miller, who voted in favor of the raise, says compensation falls under a gray area of the state law.

"The law is so vague as it pertains to board compensation and who is able to provide that compensation," Miller said.

He wants the lawsuit that was filed last week to pass so a judge can have the final say.

"We would like to have a declaratory judgment by a circuit court judge to rule on what exactly the law says," Miller said.

Board chairman Kate Darby, who voted against the bump in pay, says the board didn't follow protocol for the pay raises.

She says the vote should be rescinded and the compensation changed redone the proper way

"Let the delegation, as they say they will do, look at what compensation options are for increasing board pay," Darby said.

Most agree, however, a bump in compensation for trustees is warranted.

"I haven't had anyone say the board members don't deserve compensation. I have had people say they question the merit where the compensation arrived," Miller said. "There will be times that people love the board and its decisions. There will also be times where they don't like us and can't stand us- right now is one of those times."

"We do need to look at increasing compensation. We get paid $25 per meeting up to 50 meetings per year right now and constituent boards make even less," Darby said.

Trustee Kevin Hollinshead says better pay will make the board stronger.

“Most people have used the school board as a stepping stone for other political aspirations," Hollinshead said. "We want the best of Charleston to stay on the board and help deal with the achievement gap and the spending habits of the district.”

The board has a special called meeting tomorrow, where legal counsel will advise them on the lawsuit and members will vote on whether to rescind the compensation changes.

The salary alongside a $7,200 for each of the 50 constituent school board members would total nearly half a million dollars and are effective immediately.

The board has not yet specified if these salaries would come from its $480.6 million budget.

That budget has already been created for the upcoming school year.

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