HANOVER COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — The Hanover County NAACP has released a statement condemning the Hanover County School Board for “granting themselves a 60% pay increase.”

According to the Superintendent’s Proposed Budget for Fiscal Year 2024, total compensation for the board is expected to increase from $60,765 in Fiscal Year 2023 to $95,765 in Fiscal Year 2024 — an increase of $35,000, or 58%.

The Hanover County School Proposed Budget includes an increase to board member compensation.

Chairman of the Hanover County School Board, John Axselle III, said that the annual salary for board members has remained at $8,000 since 2006. With the additional $35,000, board members’ annual salaries would presumably be a little over $12,500.

The NAACP claimed the Hanover Board of Supervisors brought the issue to light at a Joint Education Committee meeting last week during a discussion about the proposed 5% wage increase for all employees. However, Axselle said the board member salary raise had been a public part of the school district’s budget process.

“The topic of School Board salaries has been a part of our budget process since [Superintendent Michael Gill] introduced the proposed budget in January at the request of the School Board,” Axselle said.

Slide 29 of the Superintendent’s Budget Presentation on Jan. 24 does include “School Board Member Salaries” in the budget highlights — however, the amount of the increase is not included.

The NAACP statement also took issue with board members reportedly receiving employee health insurance while other employees do not.

“Not only did we learn of the School Board slyly pushing through this 60% pay increase for themselves, but that these appointed persons, not employees of Hanover County, also receive Hanover County employee health insurance as part of their compensation — the only County Board to have that benefit,” the statement from the Hanover NAACP reads.

The Hanover County School Board had previously had a salary cap set by the Code of Virginia, but in the 2022 General Assembly Session, the law was changed.

“We were told there was no funding for a Diversity Director which is badly needed in Hanover County. We were told there is no funding for the number of needed mental health professionals in our schools,” the statement reads. “We call for the removal of the $37,000 total funding for these raises and more transparency going forward in the HCPS budget process regarding salary increases for all school administrative personnel and the School Board.”

Speaking on behalf of the Hanover County School Board, Axselle said that the board has remained transparent on this part of the budget from the beginning.

“This line item was included in the proposed budget as well as the approved budget, which Dr. Gill presented to the Board of Supervisors in February on our behalf,” Axselle said. “As demonstrated, the School Board has operated very openly on this topic.”

The final claim made by the NAACP statement is that the board is undeserving of such an increase due to recent controversies.

“The School Board has been largely responsible for the County’s recent negative press, the hard feelings in our community, and what we believe are completely unnecessary distractions,” the NAACP statement reads. “We do not believe they are deserving of a raise. We do not think the School Board should be focused on personal monetary gain over dedication to, and service to, our staff and students.”