That is a question being asked in Tallahassee during this legislative session. A bill has been introduced in the House to have a constitutional amendment to ban school board salaries. Currently, school board members’ salaries across the state are set by the legislature. To see the issue up close, the Martin County Taxpayers Association looked at our own school district.
Today, each board member receives a salary of $37,363.00. There are other costs including health insurance and retirement benefits. The total paid by taxpayers for each elected school board member is $65,916.89. Our 5 school board members cost taxpayers $330,000.
If the salary and benefits ceased, would citizens still run for the position? According to the sponsor of the current bill, 75% of school board members throughout the country are unpaid or receive a small stipend. Would we have better board members because the voters would know that they are running with the best of motives?
What about other local elected offices such as municipalities and the Martin County Board of County Commissioners? Should those also be unpaid? Would a better caliber of citizen decide to run for office? We could go further and ask about Florida House and Senate seats?
It is without doubt that paying these officials adds an enormous cost to government. It also costs money to run for office. Will no pay and benefits insure that only the rich and well-off stand in an election? We do not know the answer, nor do we purport to be in favor of the passage of the bill.
We do want to make sure the taxpayers of Martin County are aware of the issue. There will be much more written about this if the bill passes before it is on the ballot for the voters to ultimately decide.
As a state, we may also what to have a broader discussion about paying all supposedly part time public officials. Many say that they devote as many hours as a full-time job. If that is the case, then should we look at banning outside employment and businesses?
The other consideration would be term limits. Should positions come with a finite number of terms? Should we enact lifetime term limits instead of only for the number of times you can run in a row for a particular office?
On the state level we see people running for the House when they term out of the Senate and visa versa. They never leave government “service” and collect their government pensions at the end of long careers in elected office.
We take no position on this issue one way or the other. Your Martin County Taxpayers Association is posing to you questions that should be answered for each voter to make a determination.