A new policy on school board trustee remuneration has been passed by the School District 68 board of education; members of the public have until May 28 to provide comment before it is finalized.
The policy includes a number of adjustments to current practices meant to provide equitable benefits among board members and bring remuneration in line with similar-sized school districts, a report from the ad hoc committee that was struck to look into the matter says.
The committee met twice before presenting a report with eight recommendations to the business committee in April. Committee members were the Scott Saywell, superintendent; Mark Walsh, secretary-treasurer; representatives from Nanaimo District Teachers Association and CUPE, Leanne Lee, District Parent Advisory Council president, former trustee Jaime Brennan and Nancy Seward from the Leaders for Learning group on Aboriginal education.
Currently, the board chair receives $21,329 annually and the vice-chair and trustees $19,329 each. With the new policy, remuneration will be set using the average pay of similar-sized districts as of the spring prior to a trustee election. Also, on July 1 of each year, an increase based on the June Consumer Price Index would be applied. Following the 2022 election, remuneration will be around $26,287 for the chair, $24,732 for the vice-chair and $23,400 for trustees, according to the district finance department.
Overall, the increase in salaries is expected to be around $38,860 in 2022.
Some long-serving trustees were grandfathered into the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association’s benefit plan after the BCPSEA informed the district that trustees were no longer eligible. That’s created an inequity, the committee said. To address it, non-grandfathered trustees will receive an allowance equivalent to the employer’s cost of benefits until the end of their term. Following that, a new benefits plan could be offered for all trustees.
The committee reviewed trustee compensation in five other districts with a similar number of full-time equivalent students: Chilliwack, Maple Ridge, Prince George, Kamloops-Thompson and North Vancouver. The average between them for trustee pay is $23,400.
The board of education ultimately approved seven of the committee’s recommendations, voting to strike a recommendation to increase trustee remuneration for the current board in July 2021. The committee said it would ensure current-serving trustees were not “behind their peers” in similar-sized districts.
“I knew what the pay was when I came in and I’m glad people think we should be paid more, but I don’t think we should be voting on our own pay raises,” said Trustee Stephanie Higginson, who put forward the motion to strike the recommendation.
Board Chair Charlene McKay, who also voted in favour of striking the recommendation, said she couldn’t accept a pay raise while executive-level employees who cannot receive a “pay-for-performance raise” through the BCPSEA due to a freeze imposed by the minister of finance for the 2020-21 performance year. The minister’s policy specifically applies to CEOs, vice presidents and equivalent senior executive roles with an annualized salary of $125,000 or greater working in the public service, Crown agencies, research universities, post-secondary institutions, health and K-12 education sectors.
Four trustees, Lisa Marie Barron, Jessica Stanley, Greg Keller and Chantel O’Neill, were opposed to removing the 2021 pay raise, arguing the recommendation was made by a committee independent from the board.
The new policy is on the school district website; feedback can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org until May 28.
Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder