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The Charles County Board of Education wants to increase board member salaries and benefits. The last time the salaries were increased was in 2003.

In a letter to the county’s delegation to the state General Assembly, school board Chairwoman Roberta S. Wise asked them to consider a change in the school board’s annual compensation to be in line with St. Mary’s County Public Schools. The chairman’s salary would increase to $7,000 and the vice chairman and other members would receive $6,000 per year. Currently the chairman receives $5,000 and members $4,000.

By law, a school board cannot raise its own salary. Any changes to the board’s salary would take effect in 2015.

Wise asked that the expense stipend remain the same for the chairman at $1,500 and increase to $800 from $600 for members.

The board also requested additional expenses for travel and parking when acting on behalf of the school board at out-of county commitments.

The board also would like legislation to include a provision that grants a $1,000 scholarship to the student board member after she completes one year on the school board.

Wise wrote that the scholarship would be similar to that provided by a law that currently applies to Montgomery County.

Wise asked that the legislation be included in the Charles County commissioners’ 2014 legislative package.

School board members discussed possible changes to salaries in August during a regularly scheduled meeting.

Board member Pamela A. Pedersen said that her goal is to increase salaries so that future board members would have funding to do the job regardless of their personal wealth.

She said she knows of some who could not run for the position because they knew they couldn’t afford it. Being a member of the school board, Pedersen said, often comes with a lot of travel outside the county and a big time commitment away from family.

Board member Michael K. Lukas was not in favor of a raise in salary, saying people need to run for the board because they want to do it and not for money.

Board member Maura H. Cook said she agreed with Pedersen’s points but would like to see any increases kept low.

“I do think one of the benefits of keeping it low is that people can’t use this as a job,” she said. Cook said she was in favor of an increase “but not so much that someone would [sit on the board] just for the money.”

Board member Patricia Bowie said while the board isn’t paid much, it does get reimbursed for gas and other expenses and that the honor is in being elected to the position, not the pay.

“In my personal opinion, I am content,” she said.

Lukas said the board does get a stipend for expenses and if a member exceeds that, they should be able to get compensated at least for mileage.

“There is no way I could ever support increasing a salary, not just for school board but for any elected official at this time. I just don’t think it sends the right message,” he said.

Wise said if there would be a raise, she would like to see Charles County more in line with neighboring Calvert and St. Mary’s counties.

The Calvert County board pays its chairman $6,500 and members receive $5,500. Calvert school board members are entitled to $2,000 in expense reimbursement and the chairman $2,200. Calvert members also receive health benefits.

In St. Mary’s, the board chairman receives a salary of $7,000 and members receive $6,000. St. Mary’s school board members are reimbursed with travel in and out of the county when using their own vehicles and receive some funds for travel expenses for overnight stays.

Board member Jennifer S. Abell said she was in agreement for a small increase to put the next school board in alignment with Calvert and St. Mary’s.

She was not in agreement with anything substantial.

“You have to love the position. You have to do it for what is in your heart and I think the reward we get is from the community that we serve,” she said.

The board voted to raise the chairman’s salary in line with St. Mary’s and add a scholarship for the student board member at the August meeting. Bowie and Lukas opposed the vote.

During its September meeting, board attorney Eric Schwartz explained to the board that its request was put in a proper bill format to be proposed to the General Assembly at a later time.

gphillips@somdnews.com