Mary McCray knows how these kind of things can play in the public eye, so she cut in before Superintendent Clayton Wilcox could start talking about his $1.5 billion budget plan.
The school board, she said, plans to give itself a raise. A 34 percent raise.
"We recognize that percentagewise this is a large increase," the board chair said at Wednesday's meeting. But the total increase — from $183,553 to $246,455 budgeted for nine members' salary and expenses — is a tiny slice of the budget, she said.
For eight of the members, the combined annual salary and expense allowance will go from $19,782 to $26,741. For the chair it goes from $25,297 to $32,527.
McCray, a retired teacher, argued that the hike is needed to allow a more diverse slate of candidates and "catch up to the real work of today."
"We talk a lot about equity in this community, and it is important for families, parents and students to see people in leadership on this board that reflect the diversity of this community, including economically," McCray said.
While McCray overstated the gap between school board members and Mecklenburg County commissioners in her public pitch, she correctly noted that the school board will still be paid less than elected counterparts who oversee a much smaller budget and workforce.
Under the 2018-19 proposal the school board chair's salary and expense allowance would still be more than $19,000 less than the commissioners' chair gets. Although McCray didn't mention it, it's about $11,000 less than the mayor of Charlotte gets in salary and expenses.
The proposed compensation for school board members would fall almost $18,000 below county commissioners and almost $6,000 below Charlotte city council members.
The budget must still be approved by the school board and county commissioners. Commissioners control the total amount of county money allotted, but not the details of how it's spent. Wilcox's proposal seeks $468.5 million in county money, an increase of almost $40 million over the current year.
The budget includes state-funded teacher raises averaging 7 percent, as well as estimated 3 percent raises for other employees. Wilcox is also asking for $6.9 million to boost the local teacher supplement.
For more information about the budget and to offer feedback, go to OurKidsNeedUs.org.