What do board members earn?

MARIETTA – Serving on a county, city or school board may seem like a full-time job and in many bigger cities those jobs can come with something close to a full-time pay.

But in Washington County, the members of dozens of county boards, councils and commissions are putting in the hours for little, if any, monetary compensation.

This year, lawmakers in one Maryland county are looking at approving raises that would boost county school board members’ annual salaries from $18,500 to $25,000 and would raise the board president’s salary from $22,500 to $29,000. Even if the raise is not approved, those board members make about 10 times what any school board member makes in Washington County. In states like Florida and California, those salaries are even higher.

“I don’t think people know one way or the other what the school board makes. It’s a minimal amount,” said Marietta City Board of Education President Greg Gault.

That amount is $125 per meeting for members of the Marietta City board. Last year the school board tallied 12 regular meetings and four special sessions meaning each school board member brought home $2,000 before taxes.

It is not a large portion of the school’s $37 million annual budget, pointed out Marietta City Schools Treasurer Matt Reed.

Board members for the Warren Local district, Belpre City Schools and the Washington County Career Center make the same $125 per meeting, and none topped 15 meetings last year.

The $125 per meeting cap is established by Ohio law, but some local school boards budget less for their board members.

Frontier and Fort Frye Local districts each pay board members $80 per meetings and Wolf Creek Local Schools pays $60 per meeting.

At first, $125 or even $60 might seem like a lot for showing up for a meeting, but not only can the meetings themselves be time consuming but so can extra responsibilities.

“I think it depends on how active board members are with activities outside of the regular meetings,” said Ellen Caplinger, 55, of Newport, about the pay.

According to Washington County Health Board member Frank Antill, 84, those outside activities add up.

“There are a lot of meetings you don’t get paid for,” said Antill, who added that county health board members make $80 a meeting.

The health board members make lots of trips to check on various health department services, he said.

At around 12 meetings a year and five board members, less than $5,000 a year of the $1.2 million Washington County Health Department budget is spent on board members’ salaries.

“You can make (serving) a full-time job very, very quickly,” said Marietta City Council president Walt Brothers.

Current council members make $5,500 annually, but 15 percent of that is taken out for health insurance. Brothers said his take-home pay is around $245 a month.

It’s roughly the same pay as that of the Washington County Board of Elections and the Veterans Service Commission members, whose annual gross pay is $5,665 and $5,396, respectively.

The three members of the Civil Service Commission, who meet about once a month, make $1,000 annually, said Marietta City safety-service director Jonathan Hupp.

Marietta City Council has two regularly scheduled meetings a month, as well as several committee meetings each week and special meetings, said Brothers.

The same is true for school board members, said Gault, who guessed he averages 40 hours a week doing school board related activities.

Besides regular meetings and committees, there is a lot of time spent in schools, talking to staff and taking phone calls, he noted.

In a lot of ways members of these groups are giving their time away, said Belpre City Superintendent Tony Dunn.

“It’s a lot of donated time if you are willing to be a school board member,” he said.

Devola resident Doug Farr, 80, agreed that the amount local board and council members are paid seems appropriate given the work they put in.

“It’s not a lot considering it’s not just the meetings,” he said.

Still Farr and his wife, Marilyn, have noticed how out of hand similar positions have gotten nationwide.

“You’ve seen in the news where some of the things they are asking for in bigger cities is just crazy,” said Marilyn.

In Florida, where school board members’ salaries are tied to the size of each county constituency, the lowest paid school board member in 2011 made $23,256. Some of the higher paid Floridian school board members made more than $40,000.

“Here in Marietta I think there are enough people interested in what’s going on to not let it get out of hand,” said Doug Farr.

Some local boards entirely donate their time. For example, positions with the Washington County Children Services Board, the Marietta Development Advisory Board and the Washington State Community College Board of Trustees are unpaid.

“It’s not going make anybody rich. Nobody is on it for the money,” said Antill, who has served on the county health board for more than two decades and made $20 a meeting when he began.

But offering a small stipend for positions is certainly within reason, said Marietta resident Jim McBride, 62.

“To entice the top people to get involved with these things, you kind of need to make it worth their while. If you want the best, the most intelligent people, it helps to offer a little bit of compensation,” he said.

Marietta City councilman Steve Thomas, D-3rd Ward, noted that more people might run for positions if more money was offered. So far he is running unopposed for re-election.

“You don’t have a lot of people applying for the job. If you had a lot more money to offer, maybe they would,” he said.

Those that do win council seats in the November election will be making $1,750 more than current council members do after the current council approved the raise in January.

Still, those new member will still be making less than minimum wage considering the time they put in, noted Brothers.