Do the elected members of the Nantucket Select Board deserve a raise?
That’s a possibility the current Select Board intends to explore after one of its members - Brooke Mohr - proposed the idea during a recent workshop meeting.
As it stands today, Select Board members are compensated $3,500 per year, plus town health insurance benefits. The chair of the board gets slightly more at $5,000 annually.
Mohr, in her first term on the Select Board, wants to see those numbers increase significantly. And, she said, it’s not because she personally wants more money.
“The number at this point isn’t as important as the concept of making the compensation at a level that makes it more accessible for people to be able to afford to serve as Select Board members with the hours required,” Mohr said. “With the compensation we have now, it’s a very limited pool of people who have the job flexibility, the financial flexibility to commit as many hours as this job takes. We are excluding a large percentage of our town residents from even considering being on the Select Board because of the compensation we have.”
The job of a Select Board member, Mohr said, has become far more complex than it was years ago, with a greater time commitment required for meetings, background research on issues, and communication with constituents.
“I would propose a very significant increase, not because I want to get paid more, but because I want a person who couldn’t possibly think about running to be able to think about running and make it financially viable for them and their family to serve in this capacity,” Mohr said.
While town manager Libby Gibson said she was unsure exactly when the last time there had been an increase in the Select Board’s compensation, she stated it had been at least 20 years since its members had received a raise.
The other members of the Select Board seemed open to exploring the concept, but also cognizant of the optics of pursuing a raise for themselves, even if the goal was to allow more island residents the opportunity to pursue a seat on the board.
“Of course, it’s always difficult to talk about raising your own compensation,” said Select Board chair Dawn Hill Holdgate, who recommended that the board should study what other Select Boards in similar Massachusetts communities are paid. “I think it’s a worthwhile discussion.”
Of all the board members, however, Matt Fee shared the most concerns about the prospect of increasing compensation for the Select Board.
“Most people are doing it for the right reasons and have experience,” Fee said. “But if we pay too much, does it become ‘oh, it’s my job’ and what if someone who doesn’t have the experience, or life experience, knowledge of negotiations and contracts or other aspects of life that come to be helpful here?”
That, Mohr said, was kind of the point of her proposal.
“Different people of different ages bring different perspectives and value to the work we do on the board,” Mohr said. “I’m putting in a lot of time, but I can afford to do that financially. I don’t want to leave someone else out who and contribute equally to the rest of us, but can’t afford to do so.”