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School board says 'no' to minimum wage hike

As President Barack Obama was talking politics and agendas in Washington D.C., during the annual State of the Union address Tuesday night, Hillsboro School Board members were doing the same in a conference room in Hillsboro.

Legislative priorities aren’t something school boards usually discuss at length, but Tuesday night the Hillsboro board decided to wade into the debate about minimum wage in Oregon, voting 4-3 to not support a minimum wage increase to $13.50 or $15 an hour.

Board member Lisa Allen, who voted against the proposal, called the vote “irresponsible,” adding that taking a position on the state’s minimum wage is not something in the purview of a school board action.

Board member Glenn Miller disagreed, indicating he thought it was important to take an official position. “It’s going to have an effect on our budget,” he said.

District staff presented information about the potential cost to the school district if the state’s minimum wage was set at $13.50 per hour. To simply bring employees who are paid less than $13.50 an hour up to that hourly wage, it would cost about $32,540. If, however, all salaries were re-indexed across the district, it could cost upwards of $4.4 million.

Superintendent Mike Scott admonished board members about taking a position on minimum wage legislation, indicating it is important to share financial information and potential impacts with state legislators, but that the climate around the minimum wage debate is politically charged.

“There’s a certain amount of politics around this,” Scott said, adding that 50 percent of the families the school district serves lives below the poverty level. Additionally, he said, there are district employees who earn less than $13.50 an hour.

“I don’t know if that’s a position a school board should be taking. There’s a sensitivity around it,” he said.

“Consider the community in which we live,” Scott continued, expressing concern that the move could cause “hurt feelings” in district employees.

Miller was joined in voting in favor of the school board taking the position to oppose the minimum wage increase by Erik Seligman, Wayne Clift and Monte Akers.

Allen, Kim Strelchun and Janeen Sollman voted for the board to not take a formal position on the matter.

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