Council OKS school board raises

Published 10:13 am Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Franklin’s City Council voted 6-1 on Monday to approve a request from the city’s school board for a salary increase.

Board members are currently paid $2,560 annually, with the chairman receiving $4.050. In September, the board passed a unanimous resolution requesting that council increase these salaries to $4,000 for the board members and $5,000 for the chairman.

The new salaries are the maximum allowed in the city’s charter. The board had previously considered asking for $5,000 for board members and $6,000 for the chairman, which would have made Franklin’s school board salaries equal to those offered by Isle of Wight County. However, doing so would have required the city to get approval from the General Assembly to amend its charter.

During citizens’ time, Bob Holt, chairman of the school board, spoke as to why he and the other board members felt the raises were justified. He said that the current school board inherited a deficit of over $700,000 in 2017 and that by the end of fiscal year 2017-2018, had turned that figure into a surplus of over $400,000.

The new salaries will take effect July 1, 2019 — the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year. Even with the raises, Franklin will still offer one of the lowest salaries for school board members in the Western Tidewater region. Southampton County, by comparison, offers $5,000 for board members and $5,300 to the chairwoman, and Suffolk offers board members $10,000 with the chairperson receiving $12,000.

Councilman Greg McLemore was the dissenting vote on the matter. He reiterated comments he made during the September council meeting, arguing that if the school division had extra money in its budget, those funds should be spent on the children instead of raises.

Councilman Linwood Johnson, however, said that he would support giving the board the requested raises.

He also confirmed that no additional money would need to come out of the city’s budget in order to grant the board’s request. The raises would be paid with money already allocated to the school division.

Mayor Frank Rabil took issue with a comment by Holt, in which the chairman said he believed the school division receives better support from the state than it receives from the city government. However, the mayor then said that the matter of whether to offer raises should be left to the school board.

“When we appoint you, we give you the responsibility to handle your own budgets,” Rabil said. “If you all feel that’s what you want to do, it’s your money. It’s up to y’all to worry about what it looks like or feels like.”

In other business, school board member Becky Jester, J.P. King Jr. Middle School Principal Darren Parker and Franklin City Public Schools Superintendent Tamara Sterling also spoke during citizens’ time to applaud the school division for all three of its schools now being accredited. Parker also lauded the school division for implementing Sterling’s plan to offer high school credit courses at the middle school level.