Pay Raises For Elected Leaders Should Not Be Hidden Or Automatic

The Fargo School District wants to make pay raises for school board members automatic, in a way.

School board member John Strand wants to tie the pay increases the elected board members receive to the increases the staff gets. He says this will stop school board pay from being such a contentious issue:

Letter ‘C’ under line item 8: Board Compensation Memo 79, every year the Fargo School Board must at least discuss their compensation. John Strand’s idea is to mimic the county.

“And what Cass County does is they pass onto sitting commissioners the same percentage compensation increase that their staff get across the boards,” he explained.

The idea is if the employees of the Fargo School District get a cost of living increase, so does the board. It’s a proposal Strand hopes takes the politics out of the decision, setting it in stone so it’s not a huge issue every time it comes up.

If you want to argue that the public sometimes gets a bit too wound around the axle when it comes to pay for elected leaders I’ll agree.

While we could all cite egregious anecdotes, I’m sure, pay for elected leaders is generally pretty modest and represents a very tiny portion of overall spending. Some are fond of deploying populist, class war rhetoric to attack any sort of pay increase for elected leaders, but it makes sense for the compensation to be generous. Especially when it comes to local offices like school board.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]…if pay raises for the school board members have been a “huge issue” in the past maybe that’s because the public cares about them and wants them debated.[/mks_pullquote]

Do we want to create a situation where the only people who can afford to fill those positions are the very rich? Or the retired?

On the other hand, pay increases for elected leaders should absolutely be “huge issue” when considered. They deserve scrutiny and debate. They shouldn’t be made essentially automatic by tying them to increases for public workers generally.

That smacks of lawmakers who get controversial bills passed not on their merits but by tacking them onto less controversial legislation. And, frankly, if pay raises for the school board members have been a “huge issue” in the past maybe that’s because the public cares about them and wants them debated.

Again, I understand that the public’s perception of pay for elected officials can be based more on emotion and perception than fact and reality, but that’s not a good enough reason to hide those pay raises behind raises for public employees generally.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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