"The fact is these people do incur legitimate expenses because of their jobs," said Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington.
Del. J. Anita Stup, R-Frederick/Washington, defended the raise by saying the amount of work done by school board members is "absolutely incredible."
In addition to their salaries, board members are eligible for benefits, including health insurance and state retirement, said Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, who chairs the delegation.
Del. Louise V. Snodgrass, R-Frederick/Washington, said raising the salary to $4,800 instead of $7,200 would be "a little bit more palatable," especially to voters who are seeing their water and sewer bills increase because of the county's debt problems.
Del. Sue Hecht, D-Frederick/Washington, was the only delegation member to vote against the raise. She said she believes school boards should be volunteer panels, with members receiving very little compensation.
"It has nothing to do with the worth of the job," she said of her opposition to the raise.
In a related issue, the delegation put off a decision on whether to file a bill to increase the size of the school board from five to seven members, saying it wanted to look further into the issue of creating districts for some of the board members.
Munson and Del. D. Bruce Poole, D-Washington, have said they would like some board members to be residents of specific districts so that rural parts of the county would have representation equal to that of the Hagerstown area.
During the delegation meeting, lawmakers reviewed several potential district maps prepared by the Department of Legislative Reference. Each map divided Washington County into three districts of between 39,000 and 42,000 people each:
- Hagerstown and the area south of the city.
- The southern and eastern parts of the county.
- The western and northern parts of the county.
Poole argued that the board should not be expanded unless the delegation can agree on a district plan.
"I'm not entirely sold that expanding to seven members is something we have to do," Poole said.
He said he also is concerned about the lack of public input on the issue.
"This is the kind of issue that you pass and it takes effect, and then everyone says, `I didn't know this was going on,'" Poole said.
The delegation is expected to continue its discussion on the issue next week.