Should the trustees of the Los Angeles Community College District double their salaries to $2,000 a month?
That controversial question has been kicked around for three years and has been put on the board's agenda twice, only to be withdrawn because the proposed pay hike did not have enough support at a time when faculty layoffs were being considered. On Wednesday, however, with the district's financial crisis eased, the idea surfaced again and appears to have a better chance.
District trustees Harold Garvin and David Lopez-Lee introduced a resolution that said the salary doubling was merited because trustees' workload has increased dramatically while their pay has not gone up in 10 years. The seven-member board is scheduled to vote on the pay raise Nov. 4.
Insiders at the board said the resolution would not have been introduced if its supporters were not confident that at least four of the seven trustees would approve it. Asked about that, Lopez-Lee said, "I think it has a reasonably good chance of passing."
Lopez-Lee, a public administration professor at USC, said the pay raise also would be an inducement for more people to run for election to the board. "As it stands right now, only a person of some means can serve on this board," he said. "We want to open it up to a broader section of society."
The post is supposed to be part-time but some trustees complain that they are putting in nearly full-time hours, according to Garvin, a former teacher at Harbor College. Garvin stressed that members of the Los Angeles Unified School Board doubled their monthly salaries to $2,000 three years ago and that some community college districts much smaller than the Los Angeles district pay their trustees more than $1,000 a month.
Garvin said the district can afford the raises. "The budget is not plush now, but we are in much better shape than we were," he said, referring to the recent period of cutbacks and proposed faculty layoffs.
Two Remain Opposed
At least two board members, Wallace Albertson and Lindsay Conner, remain opposed to the raise.
"I'm not sure the money is there to spend," said Albertson, a long-time Democratic Party activist and the widow of actor Jack Albertson.
Conner, an attorney, said he will be out of town for the Nov. 4 vote but is leaving a written message urging defeat of the pay hike. "Our financial condition has improved in recent months. But the system is not yet stable and secure enough to afford a doubling of our salaries," he said Wednesday.
With its nine campuses and 103,000 students, the district is the largest of the community college systems in the state. The second largest, in San Diego, pays its trustees $1,500 a month to oversee 65,000 students at three colleges and 10 continuing education centers, according to a spokesman there.
Three of the seven Los Angeles trustees are new to the board and were elected with the help of the teacher's union. The union's newsletter last week appeared to give tacit support for the pay raise, saying that trustees "are spending from two to three times more hours at their work than board members have spent in the past."