Decatur School Board gives itself its first raise in more than a decade
By Logan C. Ritchie, contributor
For the first time in a decade, Decatur Board of Education members are getting a raise. The board unanimously voted Tuesday, Oct. 1, to jump from $50 per meeting to a flat stipend of $600 per month in accordance with Superintendent David Dude’s recommendation.
Intended to remove financial barriers for those who want to serve City of Decatur Schools, the higher stipend covers expenses including meals, local travel, and childcare.
Board members are expected to meet with stakeholders, attend retreats, executive sessions, work sessions and regular school board meetings.
The Decatur City Commission increased its own salary in 2017, bumping the mayor’s pay up to $15,000 per year and increasing the pay for city commissioners to $12,000 per year.
School Board member Garrett Goebel, however, suggested adding language that board members are not required to accept the monthly stipend.
But fellow board member Heather Tell suggested the stipend be accepted by all, and later donated to a charity if so desired. She said the point of raising the stipend was to lower a barrier for those who cannot afford to lose time at work and pay for childcare.
“I don’t want to create a new barrier, whether it’s real or perceived,” Tell said.
Board member Marc Wisniewski suggested allowing a board member to privately decline the stipend.
Tasha White said declining the stipend, if made public, could be used for political gain during a tight election race.
After deliberation, members approved Dude’s original recommendation along with a suggestion to create a board norm that payments would privately be accepted or declined.
The raise will go into effect January 2020 with new board members when Goebel rolls off the board, Tasha White seeks re-election, and the member-at-large seat is filled.
Dude also recommended a discussion on health insurance benefits offered through City of Decatur. Currently board members can participate in the benefit plan, but CSD does not contribute financially to insurance premiums. The cost runs $80 to $250 per month depending on the plan.
The State Health Benefits Program sets limits on school district contributions to board member health benefits. Details on rates and limits can be found at https://shbp.georgia.gov/2019-board-member-rates.
The topic was tabled, but Dude agreed to bring revisit in the future.
Just before the meeting, Dude delayed the presentation of the senior property tax exemption report from Georgia State University, due to the board’s lack of time to review. The report came in hours before the BOE meeting.
Dude said he assumed the report would be on November’s agenda.
The Decatur City Commission and Decatur School Board is planning a joint work session to go over annexation policy and senior homestead exemption. The next regular School Board meeting is Nov. 12 at 6:30 p.m.