ST. GEORGE – The Washington County School District Board voted Tuesday to increase compensation for board members from $4,440 to $9,000 per year.
After a public hearing that no one from the public attended, the nine-member board discussed the increase at some length before unanimously passing a motion to approve the increase. The compensation package includes health and dental benefits, as it did before the increase, bringing the total compensation per board member to about $14,000 to $24,000 per year.
Board members receive the same health and dental benefits as other school district employees, which is valued at about $5,000 to $15,000 per employee, depending on whether the coverage is for one person, a couple or a family.
Although the increase nearly doubles board members’ base compensation, it is still less than other comparable school districts, board members said, and is 25 percent less than the state average school board compensation for a similarly sized district.
The board has been reluctant to address the issue, but cited increasing demands on board members as the reason compensation has finally been addressed.
Board member David Stirland has only been serving since January, and has mixed emotions about the increase.
“Having served for five months, and seen the significant amount of time that this takes, I think I was undercompensated,” Stirland said. “To raise it, double? I guess my perspective is a little different,” he said, adding that he defers to the judgment of the longer-serving board members and their experience.
“And it may be noted that we are below the average for a district this size,” Stirland said, “and I’m comfortable with that.”
Up until about 10 years ago, school board compensation was set by the Utah Legislature, at which time the state turned the matter over to local school districts.
Since then, the Washington County School Board has not passed any compensation increases. In researching the pay increase, the board compared local city council member pay, because of similar time demands. They also looked at statewide school board compensation rates to come up with a figure they were comfortable with.
“We’re all comfortable remaining well below the average,” one board member said. “That’s kind of where we wanted to be.”
Board members said being below the average suits the conservative nature of their Washington County constituents.
The compensation issue and attendant public hearing were the only items on the board agenda.
Washington County School Board members are chosen in a general elections. Four members of the school board were elected or re-elected in the November general election: Stirland, LaRene Cox, Kelly Blake and Laura Hesson.
The Washington County School District is the largest employer in Washington County, and the district is the ninth largest in the state. School board members oversee district policy, the building of new schools, the hiring of principals and administrators, in addition to other duties such as serving on various boards throughout the county.
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