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DOUBLING BOARD MEMBERS' PAY? NO

A majority of the members of the Buffalo Board of Education have decided their pay should be doubled. They have asked the City Salary Review Commission, an official citizens panel, to review their pay level, and have recommended that the review produce a jump from $5,000 to $10,000.

In support of their position, the members point out the $5,000 level has been in effect since 1986 while the budget they oversee has more than doubled. They assert the job entails a minimum workload of 25 hours a week. Besides, they report, New York City and Rochester board members get $15,000 a year.

The board is not in control of its fate. Members' pay is set in the City Charter, which can be changed only by joint action of the Common Council and mayor. The board can only suggest.

Whatever emerges from all this, any raise for board members should be modest, not a doubling. Membership on a board of education should be considered a form of community service, with members setting broad policies while leaving day-to-day school management to the professional staff.

New York City and Rochester may outdistance the Buffalo board, but the New York State School Boards Association reports that only the Big Five city school districts have paid board members. The multitude of others are unpaid.

Then, there is the question of when raises take effect. For elected city officials, we have advocated that there be an election between the time the raises are voted and the time they take effect.

The case for an interval is not so compelling for school board members because they cannot vote themselves a raise. Nevertheless, they ran for the job knowing its pay level was $5,000. A raise ought to wait until another election is held for at least some of the seats.

Finally, there is a Buffalo Charter Revision Commission in business. It is reviewing all aspects of the Charter with the intent of presenting changes for a public referendum in 1999. Board members' pay might as well be part of the mix.

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