Wednesday, August 4, 2021

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Don’t grow too fond of any local politician; they’ll almost surely disappoint. This week’s example: tripling school board pay

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We’ve learned never to get too enamored of any local politician.

Just when you think you finally have a few good, well-principled people serving in public office, they’ll do something to prove they are just like every other self-serving politician.

Not so special.

And not very principled at all.

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Rarely do you see it when a whole board of elected officials proves the point all at once, but this week one group did.

That is our regrettable conclusion after Alamance County’s board of commissioners unexpectedly, and with little notice, voted to triple the salaries of the members of the Alamance-Burlington school board.

The culpability for the decision rests with all five commissioners: chairman John Paisley, vice chairman Steve Carter, and fellow commissioners Pam Thompson, Bill Lashley, and Craig Turner.

We don’t know what sort of backroom, unholy scheme was hatched to reward school board members. But what we do know is that, without any prior notice to the public, the commissioners, in a incredibly sycophantic move, voted to give the school board members a raise from $100 to $300 per month.

Now, we’ve heard all the self-serving justification from school board members that they don’t really need the extra money, but they surely were part of the conspiracy to finagle it.

Surely the most laughable, even absurd, description of the night came from Paisley, who is normally a more reasonable fellow, who with a straight face claimed tripling the school board salaries was “well deserved.”

In what alternate universe?

We cannot think of a group of public officials more undeserving of any additional remuneration, at least based on their collective performance. But they got a whale of an increase nonetheless.

Keep in mind that the current school board members have never voted to request a raise for themselves.

In fact, neither did last year’s batch of school board members.

The commissioner agenda packet included a memo from superintendent Dr. Bruce Benson that claimed, rather duplicitously we would suggest, that the salary increase request came from the school board.

In fact, there’s been no vote by the board explicitly to raise its pay – not last year and certainly not this year, with three new board members.

We’ve had our disagreements with the superintendent, but we’ve never considered him fundamentally disingenuous, if not outright dishonest. Until now.

Rather, a finance bureaucrat at the school system – with the complicity of the school superintendent – slipped in a raise for his bosses in the small print within last year’s school system budget request.

Neither has there been any request to make such an increase effective in July, as Benson also falsely described in his memo.

It’s not the way public policy should be done.

Not for the school system, and not for county government.

The commissioners originally deferred the school board’s pay raise earlier this year when the topic was first raised by the county manager, at the request of the school superintendent.
Like most citizens, we thought the idea had been scrapped.

But, no, somehow with the apparent collusion of board chairman Paisley and county manager Bryan Hagood, the salary item magically reappeared on this week’s commissioner agenda with no previous mention or notice. (The board chairman and manager usually put together each meeting agenda in coordination with each other.)

To make matters more insulting, the agenda item was originally hidden among a group of ostensibly “non-controversial” issues within a so-called “consent agenda.” (Sort of the same ruse used to slip the pay raise in the school system budget, very sneaky.)

Fortunately, the issue was at least separated for a distinct vote on the issue.

Unfortunately, all five – yes, believe it or not, all five – members of a supposedly conservative, supposedly Republican board voted to triple the pay for school board members. They even engaged in unnecessarily obsequious fawning and wholly unwarranted praise for just “how hard” the school board members work.

What a travesty.

We’re just shaking our head in disbelief, disappointment, and sadness, that not one of the five was willing to stand up for taxpayers, for transparency, for fiscal restraint.

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