As angry residents Wednesday flooded Jordan School District with phone calls about the school board's 300 percent pay raise, leaders of two other school boards said they want to follow Jordan's lead.
Alpine and Washington boards of education are studying other elected officials' pay to see if it's high time it's been a decade to hike their compensation beyond the $3,000 mark.
But others are keeping hands off what one leader calls a political hot potato.
The Jordan Board of Education Tuesday night voted to raise members' pay from $3,000 a year to $12,000 a year, and tie it to the consumer price index to rise with the cost of living. Board members also can take a cash payout in lieu of insurance benefits, offered for years at district expense and costing more than $17,000 a year.
That's after the state Legislature changed the law holding school boards' pay at $3,000 a year. Now, boards can determine their own compensation; Jordan is the first of 40 Utah district school boards known to act on the new law.
"They're certainly free to do what they want, (but) I have no personal desire to approach that," Granite Board of Education President Sarah Meier said. "I would probably question the timing, and that's all ... just because of the political climate."
Jordan and Granite districts face the ultimate challenge from east-side cities that want to break ranks and form their own school district. That might not be the best time to thrust themselves into the public spotlight over pay, appropriate or not.
"There seem to be so many things distracting and pulling us away (from more important issues)," Meier said. "It's one more thing the public is going to say, 'What's that about?"'
The district has been flooded with angry phone calls, perhaps 100 by 4 p.m. Wednesday more than the switchboard has fielded on any other recent issue, Jordan spokeswoman Melinda Colton said.
"They're mad and they want to talk to somebody ... to explain it in more detail," she said. "I think a lot of it, from what we're hearing ... is people don't quite understand the timing with a district split looming, you've got, in addition, the board (members) giving themselves raises."
The district referred angry callers to their school board members for explanation, Colton said.
But Jordan Board President J. Dale Christensen, who says he received only a handful of e-mails about the decision one, he says, thanking the board for careful and sincere deliberation and appropriate action doesn't apologize for the raise or timing.
"I guess some people can look at it that way," he said.
"I think it's a natural reaction of people to be interested and concerned in district resources. I just don't know if people understand the role, function and responsibility of board members and the magnitude of time and energy and responsibility that board members carry. So with respect to the compensation itself, I feel very comfortable and feel the compensation is appropriate and long overdue."
Others feel the same.
The Alpine Board of Education has asked its staff to research compensation for area city council members for upcoming discussions on the matter, President Debbie Taylor said.
"When we go to national conventions, we hear a school (board member) in Florida getting $60,000 a year, and ... they still have other careers," Taylor said, adding she's speaking for herself and not necessarily for the board. "There's a lot of sacrifice made in public service. You're on the front lines, you're on duty whether you're in line at the supermarket or at the baseball game."
School board work is changing in the rapidly growing Washington County.
"As school districts grow, and the laws become more complex and have all the federal programs and the state programs, it's beginning to become a full-time job," Washington Board of Education President Wes Christiansen said.
The Washington board meets once for about seven hours, and then two or three times more each month for hiring interviews and work meetings, Christiansen said.
The board is researching what other public servants make St. George City Council members receive $14,000 a year, plus insurance benefits; Washington City Council members get $18,000 but no insurance, Christiansen said to aid its compensation talks.
"I'm pretty sure it will be on the agenda, at least for a work session ... within the next three board meetings," Christiansen said.Comment on this story
Meanwhile, Ogden, Weber and Davis district officials say their boards have not discussed pay. Davis board members already get $3,000 a year, plus another $350 a month, or $4,200 a year, for expenses and compensation for additional board work, spokesman Chris Williams said.
Weber board members receive their annual pay in $250-a-month payments and must pay for 13 percent of their district health insurance, if they want it, spokesman Nate Taggart said.
Park City also has no pay hikes in mind. In fact, last year, amid budgetary constraints, the board considered a pay cut, President Kim Carson said."It's extremely low pay and seems that with additional meetings ... it probably ends up costing us," Carson said. "We do it as a service to our community primarily. ... We'd like to try to find ways to make our meetings more efficient, rather than compensate ourselves for additional meetings."