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Governor vetoes school boards pay raise request
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Effingham County Board of Education members will have to wait until next year for a pay raise.

The 10 bills Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed last week included House Bill 1146, which called for Effingham school board members’ stipend to increase from $100 per meeting to $200 per meeting and to $250 per meeting for the school board chairman.

Deal said he vetoed the bill because it called for state and local money to fund the pay increase. By law, school board members can be compensated only with local tax revenues.

“(The bill) should’ve just said local funds,” said Effingham County Schools Superintendent Randy Shearouse.

“We’re not paid by the state,” said school board Chairman Lamar Allen. “Therefore, the governor couldn’t sign it, because it wasn’t right.”

Deal’s legal staff worded the bill incorrectly prior to presenting it to the governor for his signature, according to Shearouse and Allen. As the bill was written, Deal had no choice but to veto it, Allen said.

“They waited to the last-minute to get it in, and I guess nobody had time to proofread it too well,” he said. “We never saw it, so we didn’t even know what was in it until after it was done. I thought somebody should’ve caught it, but they didn’t.”

The school board voted 4-0 in February to ask the General Assembly to approve a stipend increase. Board members initially discussed raising it to $300 per meeting and to $350 per meeting for the school board chairman, but ultimately submitted a request of $200 and $250 to the state.

The doubled stipend would have been the Effingham County Board of Education’s first pay raise since the 1980s.

“It’s not a tremendous difference,” Shearouse said, “but for someone taking off work to spend the day taking care of board business, I don’t really feel like that’s too much for what they do and what they’re responsible for.”

For comparison, school board members in Bryan County receive $150 per meeting and Bulloch County members receive $100 per meeting. Board members in Burke County receive $600 per month and Liberty County members receive $128 per day per out-of-county meeting, according to Georgia School Boards Association data.

Savannah-Chatham County school board members, with a student population of approximately 35,000, receive an annual $12,000 salary. Gwinnett County, with the state’s largest school system, pays board members $16,524 a year.

Compensation is set at the state level in order to prevent local school board members from voting to raise their own pay. A stipend increase requires the support of the local legislative delegation, then approval by both chambers of the General Assembly and finally the governor’s signature.

Allen said he will revisit the measure in January when the 2015 legislative session begins.

“I’m not through with it,” he said. “We’re going to have to go back to the drawing board again next year.”