BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) -- Brunswick County School Board members have a little extra cash in their pockets after passing this year's budget, or do they?
Their salaries have gone up nearly 26% in just two years while salaries for teachers continue to crawl. But there are now questions about whether the raises are legal.
In the last two years, school board members have given themselves raises to the tune of $2,400 for each board member and $2,700 for the board chair. But teachers have only seen a $500 raise in the same two years.
"I don't think it's fair,” parent Kim Eggleston said. “Because the teachers, they do a lot of work, and they have to put a lot of their own money back into the classroom.”
"That's really not good,” parent Rhonda Long said. “They should actually give the teachers a lot more money and more funding to the schools."
On top of their pay increases, board members receive $5,100 each year for travel expenses, six grand for the chair.
That totals $425 per month per board member, or about the cost of gas for a one-way trip all the way along I-40 to Barstow, California, each month.
"If we go out of town, like to Raleigh, for a seminar or training, then that's usually separate expense just because it's longer, a lot of mileage,” board member Catherine Cooke said. “But going around the county, this is a big county, and it's a lot of travel, so would say that's probably very much in par with what I spend anyway."
The budget also included a loss of nearly 25 teacher assistants due to a cut in state funding.
We asked Cooke if the board's extra money could be used elsewhere.
"I think we certainly could use it for something else, but I think it's very minimal what you are talking about,” Cooke said.
The amount of money spent on raises and travel for all board members and the board chair is more than $37,000 in the last two years. That's more than enough to pay the salary of one teacher assistant.
But is the raise for board members even legal?
"Our Board of Education salary and expenses are currently under statutory review by the board's attorney,” School board spokeswoman Jessica Swencki said.
Under state law, the "tax-levying authority" for a school board has the power to raise the pay of board members.