Comox Valley trustees narrowly approve raise for themselves

Future trustees on the Comox Valley Board of Education will receive more money for their service after a split vote.

Future trustees on the Comox Valley Board of Education will receive more money for their service after a split vote about trustee remuneration last week.

In a 4-3 vote, a finance committee recommendation to increase trustee remuneration by $1,000 per year for the next three years, starting in July 2014, was carried. Board vice-chair Janice Caton and trustees Sheila McDonnell and Paula Selby were opposed.

Trustee and finance committee chair Rick Grinham spoke to the recommendation, noting the board had previously directed the finance committee to review the current remuneration structure for trustees.

“We looked at the guidelines, we looked at other school districts — other school districts of comparable size — what their funding was, looked at our comparison to theirs, and drew the lines,” said Grinham. “Certainly, we’re below the average across the province, significantly.”

His briefing note to the board noted the trend-line pay for a board chair at a district of a similar size is $17,700 per year; the Comox Valley chair receives $13,500. The trend-line pay for a vice-chair is $16,500; the Comox Valley vice-chair receives $12,500. The trend-line pay for trustees is $15,200; Comox Valley trustees receive $10,500.

Grinham explained the rationale behind the recommendation was to attract “the very best” candidates for trustee positions during the municipal elections next year.

“There are a lot of people out there who want to serve the public but they also want to have some type of compensation and $0.25 an hour is just not going to cut it, and that’s the reality,” he said.

The original recommendation listed July 2013 as the effective start date of the remuneration increases, but at trustee Tom Weber’s suggestion, the board voted to change the date to 2014.

Weber said he didn’t feel comfortable with the 2013 start date, as the increase is designed to benefit a future board, which won’t come into power until after the 2014 municipal elections.

Caton said she couldn’t support the recommendation, noting cuts are expected to be considered in the coming district budget. She also pointed out the projected increase in hydro rates, among other cost pressures the district faces.

“I didn’t run as a trustee for the money; I ran as a trustee because I care about the students and the staff in this district,” she said.

Selby agreed, and questioned why getting paid less than other boards of education should matter.

“I certainly didn’t become a trustee for the pay … and the fact that future prospective trustees are going to be enticed with more money doesn’t mean more qualified people,” said Selby.

McDonnell said she would be more comfortable with a “cost-of-living allowance approach,” adding the district size is just over the line into a larger size and higher pay bracket, so the trend-line numbers were a bit high.

“I don’t really feel we’re all that far off the mark,” she said.

Board chair Peter Coleman said the difference in pay between the Comox Valley board and other boards is substantial.

“It is an awkward system, I have to say,” he added. “I wish we didn’t have to have this discussion at all, and simply had a rate specified by the Ministry (of Education). But that’s not the case and so we have to deal with it.”

The amended recommendation was carried with Coleman, Grinham, Weber and trustee Donna Gambacorta in favour.

Another recommendation that trustees be eligible to receive $100 per day while at out-of-town meetings was not approved.

The rationale, according to Grinham, was to offset any lost wages due to missed work, and the reason for making the allowance a discretionary claim was that some trustees are retired from their careers.

The board voted to refer the matter back to the finance committee for more clear and comprehensive wording in a future recommendation.

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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