We posed the question to our readers as to whether school board members should be compensated.
Without exception, the responses we received believe that school board members should be compensated at best with a small stipend. This is in keeping with most of the rest of the nation, where serving on a school board is deemed a public service and not a job. How did Florida end up having well-paid school board members with health and retirement benefits being provided to them?
The Martin County Taxpayers Association does not have an answer. As elaborated on in our initial piece on this subject, we noted that Florida has some of the highest paid local elected positions. Then what should we do to have compensation in line with other states?
The legislative bill which precipitated the discussion was changed to be a term limits bill only. This was probably done because a few school board members claimed it was unfair since most school board members in the state are women. School boards, like every other group, do have lobbyists looking after their members’ interests. This is true even if the lobbyists are paid with taxpayer dollars.
Of course, that begs the entire issue of why local elected officials should be paid salaries and benefits at all. Compensation should be based on whether your employment is considered full or part time. And if it is part time, how many hours do you devote to the office in any week or month. In our opinion, something has gotten out of whack.
By incentivizing local elected officials with full time salaries and benefits, we have turned public service into government employment. This has resulted in some doing the job for the inflated retirement benefits and medical coverage that come along with the position. I do not believe anyone thinks this is anything more than a part time job.
This has other repercussions. Since most incumbents face little or no electoral opposition, they remain term after term accumulating pension seniority. These same officials with the same old ideas stymie the innovation that new officials would bring to the elected boards.
It is hard to leave such taxpayer-provided largess where no one dictates the amount of time a school board member should devote to “public service”.
Are taxpayers being served with the current system? There may be a few elected officials who continue to serve in the public interest year after year. It is time to lower the economic benefit for supposed public service and impose term limits the same as for state office.