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County Council Pay Raise May Be A Good Idea Overdue
10/15/2014 4:39:32 PM

Teddie Pryor
By Barney Blakeney

Charleston County Council Chairman Teddie Pryor gets a little heated discussing the proposal to raise his and county council members’ salary. Council only can vote themselves a pay raise when a majority of five members are up for election. That happens in November. Pryor’s seat is among those being elected. He’s disturbed by some who oppose the pay raise.

County council members haven’t received a pay raise in over 10 years. They currently are paid $14,352 annually which would be raised to $20,738. Council’s chairman is paid $17,347 and would receive $26,142. Pryor complains that council members in neighboring Dorchester County which is smaller, has fewer residents and a smaller budget get paid more. But Pryor is quick to clarify he isn’t complaining.

“I don’t depend on this income to support myself,” he points out. Council three years ago commissioned the study to look at salaries of comparable counties in preparation for the increase. Now some members are considering the political ramifications of a vote to increase their salaries. “If they don’t like the results, don’t spend the money for the study,” he retorts.

Increasing council’s compensation is more than just a pay raise, Pryor insists. The positions require a lot from those holding them, he said. “It’s more than showing up for a meeting once a week. There are committee meetings, meetings with different boards and commissions and community meetings about all kinds of issues.

It’s really a full time job. You have to adjust your schedule, take annual leave and personal leave if you want to do the job right,” Pryor said. But more importantly, the increased compensation will help attract qualified candidates, he said.

Pryor’s contentions are supported by other public servants in elected office. While having dinner after Monday’s Charleston County School Board meeting several members shared their views on the subject. County school board members are compensated $25 per meeting up to 50 meetings annually in addition to compensation for traveling to those meetings.

Board member Michael Miller said he’s reached his 50-meeting limit and mileage compensation within six months each of the two years he served on the board. There’s no compensation beyond that, but members still must serve their constituents. That includes attending constituent school board and community meetings also, he said.

“I can’t say county council doesn’t deserve the raise. We get paid $25 per meeting, but I knew that when I got elected. What I didn’t know was how much time it takes to do the job well,” said Miller who is a small business owner and adjusts his schedule to meet the obligations of his office.

Still there are elected officials who just can’t afford to serve without compensation. One small business owner on the board has served public schools in elected office the past 16 years. But in the current economic environment the member candidly said he no longer can afford to take time from running his business to fulfill all the obligations the service requires.

School board member Elizabeth Moffly noted Charleston County School District is the county’s fourth largest business entity with over 5,700 employees and an annual budget of over $500 million. Its board members are compensated only about $1,300 annually, Moffly said. She thinks that’s unfair. Better compensation equals more qualified candidates willing to serve, she said.

One North Charleston elected official said fair compensation for public service insures that the average citizen can hold public office and not just those in the financial position to serve.

“Anyone with the ability should be able to run and serve. People don’t serve for the money, but a lot of talented people just can’t afford to serve,” he said.

County Council is expected to vote on the issue Oct. 21.

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