'It's not a pay raise': Hawkins BOE, commissioners now paid for multiple meetings in a day

Jeff Bobo • Feb 21, 2020 at 5:30 PM

ROGERSVILLE – With two dissenting votes, the Hawkins County Board of Education voted last week to pay board members for every meeting they attend in a single day.

This BOE pay adjustment was in keeping with a 23-year-old policy that county commissioner and school board member compensation remain consistent.

As a cost cutting move during a tight budget year a few years back, the Hawkins County Commission voted that it would only pay commissioners for one meeting per day, regardless of how many meeting they attend.

Although it doesn't happen often, there are occasions when the same commissioner is on multiple committees that would meet on the same day; or the budget committee would meet prior to the county commission meeting to discuss an important pending matter.

As the rule stood until recently, they got paid one time regardless of how many meetings they attended in a day.

Last month the county commission voted to end that practice and pay commissioners for every meeting they attend, which is $100 per commission meeting, and $50 per committee meeting.

The reasoning behind the change was that it's not a pay raise for commissioners. The argument in favor of the change, which was supported by County Attorney Jim Phillips, was that commissioners should be compensated for their time and effort.

The county commission previously approved a resolution in 1997 stating commissioner and school board compensation would be consistent with each other.

As a result, the Board of Education was asked last week to approve pay for every meeting attended in one day as well.

Board Chairman Chris Christian said he doesn't believe the issue will arise very often, but the school board follows the county commission's lead with regards to compensation.

“When we debated this, Ms. (Finance Director Melissa) Farmer explained to us that we follow the county commission pay process,” Christian told the board at its Feb. 6 meeting. “At the time they didn't pay but for one committee meeting per day — whether you had two, four, eight, or 10 — if you was there all day you got paid for one meeting. Seeing how the county commission has adjusted its process … I felt like we needed to bring it back before the board.”

Board member Bob Larkins said he had never see or read any ruling that the school board pay had to match what commissioners were paid.

Director of Schools Matt Hixson noted, “The resolution in question was from around 1997, and it stated something along the lines that there was an effort to be consistent pay between the two boards. I don't know if it was a ruling, or an agreement.

Larkins: “Would the commission have the authority to pass a mandate to us since we're equally elected?”

Phillips: “If they said the school boards can get the same pay as our commissioners, and their (pay) has gone up, then if course, it would be across (the board).”

Larkins and Board Vice Chairman Debbie Shedden voted against the motion which was approved 5-2.