Members of the Richmond County Board of Education will have to wait until at least next year to get a raise. They haven’t gotten one in nearly 20 years. This year, the road block came down to a “No“ vote by one state lawmaker.
All eight local state legislators had to say “Yes“ by Monday, March 25 to giving Richmond County BOE members a raise in order for the measure to move through the legislative process. That did not happen despite having majority in support.
We sat down with BOE President Jimmy Atkins to see why the board feels raises are needed.
“We do not have a gas card. We do not get any type of automobile allowance. We don’t get a cell phone allowance like some of the other elected officials in the area do,“ said Atkins, who has spent the past 15 years on the school board.
He told us despite an increase in responsibilities, he has not seen a raise.
“Outside of our regular board meetings that we had and our committee meetings that we had, we also had several tribunal appeals that required extra time, extra trips to Central Office. And we had 12 public hearings in reference to our Rightsizing,“ said the BOE member who represents District 8.
Atkins said the board started last year appealing for a raise. Regular members draw a $6,800 annual salary. The Vice President makes $7,380 and the President makes $7, 980 a year. RCBOE Spokesman Kaden Jacobs told us those amounts went in effect back in January of 2000.
Atkins added, “Our neighboring county, Burke County, they have 4700 students versus the 32,000 that we service here in Richmond County and the school board members in Burke County make more than what we make in Richmond County.“
Burke County’s $200 a month raise came in 2007 thanks to a law passed unanimously by Georgia’s General Assembly then.
Burke County’s State Representative penning that legislation to enact the raises was Gloria Frazier–the lone “No” vote stopping the Richmond County board members from seeing a raise.
“We don’t know why. We can’t get a straight answer,“ said Atkins of why Rep. Frasier voted no.
Helen Minchew, who represents District 10 said she does not know either, even though the school system has made advancements.
“So far, I’ve not heard a reason as to why one or two could not support this raise.“
“Since I’ve been on the board, I’ve always been told that they were not in the position to help us because they were not in control. What I’m confused, the one thing that you are in control of you still refuse to support the school system,“ said Venus Cain, District 9.
We spoke with Representative Wayne Howard who chairs the local state delegation. He said the rules are that all 8 members (3 senators and 5 representatives) must say yes to local laws. Frazier voted no and he said Sheila Nelson was not present. ‘
BOE members said they are baffled by why they couldn’t get the raise they say they need to travel the county, learn and show support.
Charlie Hannah, of District 2 shared, “I barely see them at any functions. I honestly don’t think that at this stage they actually know what’s going on in the school system besides what they hear from the street committee.“
Atkins said the next step is going to the Georgia School Boards Association to see if all BOE members statewide can see raises and perhaps change the unanimous vote requirement needed by the local delegation.
We reached out to GSBA about RCBOE’s plan.
Members have two opportunities each year to propose additions, deletions, or amendments to the GSBA legislative positions. The Governmental Operations Committee, a large group appointed by the GSBA President, reviews the positions and proposals from local boards and makes its recommendations to the Delegate Assembly. Local boards may also propose changes to the positions directly to the Delegate Assembly. Each school board is asked to select a delegate to represent them at the annual business meeting of GSBA. In this Delegate Assembly, the positions are adopted each June. Justin Pauly, GSBA Director of Communications
Atkins also wanted to make a point to thank the legislators who supported the raises.
For the record, every board member we talked to supports raises:
Walter Eubanks, District 3
When I ran for a spot on the board I was unaware that it was a paid position. Since being elected I have been amazed at the demands that the seat makes on time. Some of the trustees have been serving for more than ten years they deserve a raise.
A.K. Hasan, District 6
I support the board members getting a raise 100 percent. Our duties are plentiful. We often make sacrifices at our own expense to carry out duties in service to the taxpayers of Richmond County.
Charlie Walker, District 7
I am in favor of the raise and would support whatever measures would have to take place in order have it enacted.
Board members Marion Barnes and Patsy Scott also support raises.
But board member Wayne Frazier, who is married to State Representative Gloria Frazier, said he has no official comment right now. However, Atkins informed us that Wayne Frazier initially requested that the board vote on a resolution for raises and later voted the measure down.
NewsChannel 6 made multiple attempts to ask Rep. Frazier why she voted no, but did not receive a response back. We also contacted Rep. Nelson to get her position since she was not present during the vote.