Could the salaries of school board members be scrapped?

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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG-WECP) - One school board member from Collier County is looking to make being a school board member in Florida a volunteer position.

Erika Donalds, who also serves on Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission is proposing an amendment that would eliminate salaries for school board members and establish term limits.

"School board members are there to serve the public,” Donalds said. “It's a volunteer position because it's a public service position, and it's not a full-time job."

Ginger Littleton, who’s served on Bay County’s board since 2006, isn’t a fan of the proposal.

“It seems to me that there are people who decide that they should run everybody’s lives instead of their own,” Littleton said. “I think every district can figure out what they need to do.”

Across the country, only two percent of school board members earn more than $15,000 a year. According to a 2010 report published by the National Schoolboard Association, 62 percent don’t receive a salary at all.

Another local member, Steve Moss, believes Donalds’ recommendation is purely political.

“If you look, she was put on the Constitution Revision Commission by the speaker of the [Florida] House. The speaker of the House, along with the state legislature is being named in a lawsuit that is being brought by Bay County, along with 14 other counties,” Moss said.

Salaries are set by the state legislatures, so members can’t build raises into their pay scale off their budgets.

Donalds disputes that claim, calling it a smokescreen.

"I would be interested to hear what their substantive concerns are with the issues that I've put forward and we can have a real discussion about the issues," she said.

Salaries for each school district are set by the state legislatures. WJHG/WECP asked all five members of the school board if they would do their job on a volunteer-basis.

"I would do the job that I have to do, the problem that you get into is we all have extra jobs, or we're retired," Littleton said.

For Moss, his fears lay with qualifications.

"My biggest fear would be some qualified folks might say, 'I'm not interested in it because I cannot, I don't have the time or the effort to put toward it, without being compensated,'" Moss said.

The remaining members, Jerry Register, Ryan Neves, and Joe Walker all said they'd still do the job if their salary were scrapped.

In a phone conversation, Register said he would probably do the job without the salary.

“I’ve truly enjoyed it," he said. “The salary I’ve enjoyed as well. I’m not proposing that we get more salary. Instead of getting more salary, I would rather give it to teachers.”

In another phone interview, Joe Walker said he’d do the job without a salary,

“I didn’t get into for the salary,” Walker said. “I got into it to serve the community to do the best I could do.”

Ryan Neves believes the changes are politically motivated.

“Regardless, I’d continue to serve paid or non-paid,” he said.

The state would save $19.3 million annually by making the positions unpaid.