The newly elected members of the Orangeburg County School Board could be paid $450 a meeting, if they follow the recommendations of the Orangeburg County Consolidation Transition Committee.
"This is about average. That is why we chose $450," committee Chairman Donnie Hilliard said.
The transition committee was created to help Orangeburg County move from three school districts to one consolidated district in July 2019. The committee is recommending the new, unified school board set aside $29,000 for trustee stipends through the end of the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2019.
This means each of the nine members of the board could receive $450 per meeting for about seven meetings.
The $450 per meeting stipend is being recommended by the transition committee, but the new school board has the authority to change it.
Orangeburg County School District Chairwoman Peggy James-Tyler said the board has not discussed the stipend but that she will be meeting with Hilliard on Dec. 11.
"We have not talked about it," she said. "I have not been told anything about what we would be getting."
Orangeburg County School board member Vernell Goodwin said the stipend has not been a focal point for her.
"My main concern is that we stay focused on this board being built up and to make sure there is equalization across the board in doing what is best for our students," Goodwin said.
Currently, each of the county's three school districts pays the board members differently for their service.
Orangeburg Consolidated School District 5 board members receive $4,200 a year, according to the South Carolina School Boards Association.
OCSD5 meetings last on average between 30 minutes to 45 minutes and if the board goes into closed session, the meetings last on average about 1/1-2 hours to 2 hours.
OCSD3 board members are paid monthly at $125. The annual amount is not to exceed $4,800, according to District 3's policy. District meetings currently average about four hours.
OCSD4 board members receive $100 per meeting for a limit of 24 meetings a year, according to the SCSBA. District 4 meetings last on average about one hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes.
School board member pay is as diverse as the 81 school districts in the state, according to information from the SCSBA.
Board members in 51 districts receive compensation. Some are paid by the meeting, some monthly and some yearly. Board members in the other 30 districts do not get paid.
Board chairmen in 22 districts receive a higher salary.
In some districts, board members receive a per-meeting stipend in addition to their annual pay. In some districts, board members receive mileage reimbursements.
Generally, Orangeburg County school board members in all three districts have received stipends at near or slightly below average compared to other boards across the state, according to the SCSBA.
For example, OCSD5 board members get paid $4,200 a year. The average across the state for school boards that receive an annual payment is $6,187 a year.
Horry County schools pay their board members $15,966 a year and their chair receives $19,159 a year. The school district is the third largest in the state.
Greenville County School District, which is the largest in the state, pays its board members $11,649 a year and its chair $13,009 a year.
Lexington/Richland Five board members receive $9,600 a year.
Within The T&D Region, Bamberg School District One Board members receive $1,200 a year.
When it comes to boards that get paid monthly, OCSD3 trustees get paid $125. That’s the second-lowest monthly stipend among school boards that get a monthly stipend.
Only Florence County School District 3 board members get paid less at $53 a month.
The average monthly stipend is $465, according to the SCSBA.
Denmark-Olar School District Two trustees receive $400 month, plus $50 per special meeting.
When it comes to boards that get paid per meeting, OCSD4 board members get paid $100 for a limit of 24 meetings a year.
Calhoun County Public Schools board members also receive $100 per meeting.
The average across the state is $78.
Orangeburg County school board pay is currently capped by a 2001 state law introduced by Sen. John Matthews, D-Bowman, and Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg. The law stipulates that the annual school board pay “shall not exceed $4,800.”
New state law says Orangeburg County’s new school board salaries will be set by the majority vote of the board not to exceed $6,500 per member per year.
Continuing board education
In addition to the stipend for board members, the transition committee recommended about $18,747 be set aside for new school board members to attend conferences in December and February.
Hilliard said the amount is based on registration fees and hotel allotments for the nine members on the board.
"The allocation is based on a projection," Hilliard said. "It is not that they will spend all of that. This is going to be a reimbursement for individual board members."
Board member attendance at the conferences is not mandatory, so there may be money left over, Hilliard said. In the past, school boards have sent one or two representatives to the conferences
The leftover money will stay in the budget to cover other expenses.
Conferences historically have been held in Charleston, Hilton Head or Myrtle Beach, with hotels being chosen based on rates and space. Board members will typically stay at the conference hotels that have the ability to accommodate large crowds, SCSBA Executive Director Scott Price said.
The annual four-day SCSBA convention this year will be held at the Hilton Head Marriott in February.
Hotel rates have averaged about $136 a night. Registration fees for the conferences are between $100 and $300 a person.
"We do a good job negotiating with hotels in off season to get the best reasonable rate as possible," Price said. "We try to do our best to ensure that not only are they are getting a good value but we are also keeping an eye on the bottom line."
"At conferences, members receive training, national/state educational information (trends, best practices, etc.), legislative and legal hot topics and the ability to network with fellow school board members from across the state," Price said. "We’re supplementing the Institute with in-district training on specific topics, or tailored to meet local board needs, webinars and drive-in workshops at SCSBA’s office building in Columbia."
State law requires that all new members successfully complete a state-approved orientation program within one year of taking office. Board members already serving and continuously reelected or reappointed are exempt from this requirement.
This is the only mandated meeting held in conjunction with the SCSBA's annual convention in February, Price said.
The money is in line with what each of the school districts spent last year.
OCSD5 trustees participated in three SCSBA conferences, including the SCSBA Annual Convention in Hilton Head, the SCSBA Legislative Advocacy Conference in Charleston and the SCSBA School Law Conference, also in Charleston.
The total expenditure for the board including registrations, hotel, meals and travel at these conferences was $15,411.
Last year, OCSD4 spent $13,693 for the three conferences, which includes conference registration fees, lodging, meals and mileage.
OCSD3 spent $26,340.86 for the following conferences: School Law Conference, Legislative Advocacy and Delegate Assembly and 2 Day at the Capitol. The total includes conference registration, hotel, meals and travel.
There was some discussion among school board transition committee members about the necessity of setting aside money for all nine members to go to the conference as some members currently sit on existing school district boards. Members thought existing school boards already budgeted money for the members to attend these conferences.