Manassas School Board members voted, 6-1, this week to double their salary, increasing their annual pay to $4,800 and the chairman's to $5,900, a move the chairman called "appropriate" and "in line with the times."
Board Chairman Joseph B. Johnson, who also announced this week that he would not seek reelection next year, said growing expenses have made the wage increase necessary. This is the first increase the board has approved in a decade.
"I think it's appropriate for the number of meetings we have, which is more than we used to have," he said. "I think it's the right move to offset expenses we now have when campaigning."
Arthur P. Bushnell cast the lone opposing vote Tuesday, citing his upcoming bid for reelection.
"I'm up for reelection in the spring and, because of that, I'd feel uncomfortable giving myself a raise," he said.
The raise, which takes effect July 1, will increase the board's total annual pay to $34,700.
Bushnell said he doesn't oppose the raise, and that it is "probably time for one," but that the salary increase encourages residents to run for office.
"It's just awkward knowing that I'd be favoring something that would make people run against me," he said.
Manassas School Superintendent Jim Upperman called the raise "long overdue."
Most surrounding jurisdictions in Northern Virginia pay school board members far more than Manassas. In Fairfax County, school board members are paid $12,500 per year. In Arlington County, board members earn an annual salary of $12,000. And in Prince William County, board members are paid $8,000 per year. In Manassas Park, however, members earn only $1,800 per year.
Any local school board can vote for a salary increase in a year before an election year, according to the Code of Virginia, so long as the raise is voted for before Dec. 31. The Manassas School Board voted on the issue less than two weeks after the matter was discussed at a work session.
Johnson commended the salary increase, although he admitted it's still a small amount of money compared with other counties.
"You wouldn't want to be giving someone what they can earn in a full-time job," he said. "And this increase will really help out."
Johnson, who has been a member of the board since Manassas became a city in 1975, said he will not run again because he feels it's time for someone new to be elected.
"I don't have children in school anymore, and really, it's just not as much as fun as it used to be," he said. "It's more a chore now, and it's reached the point where I'd just rather do something else."
School Board member Nancy N. Van Wyen also announced she will not seek reelection. Mary E. Andersen and Bushnell will be campaigning for new three-year terms. Their terms expire June 30.