School District 71 trustees rejected a motion to suspend a scheduled pay increase. File photo

School District 71 trustees rejected a motion to suspend a scheduled pay increase. File photo

Comox Valley school board sticks with planned pay hike

Question raised about what third-party review of pay might cost

The board of education for School District 71 is proceeding with a scheduled pay raise.

In recent years, the board has set up an automatic process to tie trustee pay increases to the consumer price index (CPI), as happens in many school districts.

“Most districts do use CPI,” secretary-treasurer Brenda Hooker told the board. “It’s a common practice throughout the province.”

However, in light of recent inflation, board member Michelle Waite expressed concern with the amount planned — a 4.8 per cent increase as of July 1. Last year, the amount was two per cent.

“I’m just uncomfortable with the 4.8 per cent increase,” she said. “I think it’s too high.”

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Trustee Janice Caton expressed similar concerns with the amount but said the finance committee may consider having an outside body conduct some kind of independent review of remuneration for the future.

“We are in inflationary times,” she said. “We have many others looking for raises.”

She said the district has used the current practice for the last four years, adding the board has been at the lower end in the province when it comes to pay for board members, and even with the planned raise, it will remain below average.

Trustee Sheila McDonnell also said the board’s pay was not ‘out of line’ with other districts and that they have to consider the need to attract good candidates to run as trustees.

Trustee Sarah Jane Howe reiterated Caton’s point about having someone outside the school district take a look at the matter of remuneration levels.

Waite made a motion to suspend the planned increase until after the board meeting in September based on the idea to have a third-party review, though some on the board questioned when this could take place. McDonnell wanted to know whether the board could have someone do a review in September to provide the information or the board would simply talk about whether to get someone to do a review, which could potentially suspend a pay increase for longer.

Board chair Tonia Frawley also brought up a question about paying for the review.

“I would just be curious how much this third party is costing us,” she said.

Waite responded that the board could make another decision at the September board meeting, but was, in the end, the only trustee to vote for suspending the upcoming, scheduled increase.

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School District 71