Board members give up meals to balance budget

COUNTY — A penny saved is a penny earned, and facing budget shortfalls, it appears as though board members at the SDPC are doing everything they can to stretch the insufficient funds available for the 2011-2012 FY.

However, there are still some Pickens County residents who feel the board is not doing enough.
Dan Troutman, a regular speaker at Pickens County school board meetings, addressed his concerns about board member meals and pay at Monday night’s meeting.

“Not only is our school board provided dinner, they are paid for their services,” said Troutman. “31 districts in the state don’t pay their school board members at all.

“This board takes $18,000 plus expenses per year from our classrooms. Since it is not a state standard, it would be appropriate for the board to show the example to the district by telling them not to provide food for them anymore and not to pay them anymore. As one of the board members was quoted as saying — when you save small, you save large. If you’re going to ask schools to make sacrifices, you need to lead by example.”

Chairman Alex Saitta said board members decided to forfeit meals paid for by the Pickens County School District once they began looking at the budget more closely.

“We had three budget meetings in February, where we looked at spending from all angles,” Saitta said. “One of the many things that was clear was a lot of money is being spent on meals for employees. For that reason, the board decided it was best to end the monthly meals before board meetings. Few were actually eating the meals. Saving every dime will add up.”

While board members have decided to forgo free meals prior to Monday night meetings, it does not appear as though they are prepared to give up their pay as an example of penny-pinching financial stewardship.

Pickens County School District board members are paid a stipend of $250 per month or $3,000 per year. With nine members sitting on the board, the district paid out a total of $27,000 last year. That number dropped to $18,000 when the board fell to six trustees.

“I don’t see the annual pay of $3,000 as excessive given county councilmen are paid much more,” said Saitta. “Even city councilmen in Pickens make more. It would not surprise me if that $3,000 annual pay has been the same for more than a decade.”

If $18,000 is equivalent to 180,000 dimes, it would seem that every dime does add up.