LAND O'LAKES — In the weeks since the Florida Legislature approved the idea, several school boards have voted to reduce their own salaries to show they're sharing the pain of budget cuts.
Brevard board members cut their pay by $2,383, to the level of a first-year teacher. The Polk board has tentatively agreed to take a cut of 2 to 5 percent. Volusia's board gave back 2 percent.
At least one Lee board member is calling on his colleagues to return their entire pay.
Here in Pasco, the debate hasn't hit the School Board meeting room.
But already board members have fielded the question from residents about whether they'll follow the trend, which many see as mostly symbolic, as the board's total pay wouldn't come close to closing the projected $37 million budget gap for 2009-10.
School Board members each earn $37,714 a year.
Pasco School Board chairman Frank Parker said he generally considers what board members do with their pay to be private. He figured board members might take a public stance, though, if the time arises when it must tap into employee salaries to make ends meet.
"It probably would behoove us to let people know what we are doing," Parker said, noting that he would give back the same portion of his salary that the board asks employees to cut.
Board members Allen Altman and Cathi Martin said they would do the same.
"If the district was forced to ask for pay reductions, as other districts have done, certainly everyone, including administrators and School Board members, should participate," Altman said.
"The economy is terrible," Martin said, echoing the sentiment. "Everybody has got to do something."
If they do, though, it doesn't look likely to be through official board action. Board attorney Dennis Alfonso has cautioned that the law gives board members the right to voluntarily reduce their pay.
"It doesn't say a board may impose," Alfonso said. "I don't know, really, if this is appropriate for board action in any way" other than to make a political statement.
That's as it should be, board member Kathryn Starkey said.
"I think that would probably be up to each board member and what their financial situation is," Starkey said, noting that she already donates more than her salary amount to district and community activities. "I'm not going to suggest what anyone do with their paycheck, and personally, I'm more of a private tither than a public tither."
The board has another budget workshop this morning.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.