A school trustee in Chilliwack brought forth a motion that would see trustees receive a 29.6-per-cent raise.
At a board meeting this week, Darrell Furgason said he thinks “it’s not unreasonable” to have the trustees’ stipend reflect the new income tax assessment, the cost of living, and the cost of trustees using their own vehicles for school district reasons.
He also suggested their wages be raised from a “meager” $19,000 to $25,000 because “the current rate prejudices (the board) for a number of reasons,” such as the recent tax changes.
“It’s up to this board to decide how to fairly and justly compensate its trustees,” Furgason said.
Beginning in January, the rules around the taxation of trustee salaries changed. Previously, $6,000 of their wages were subject to income tax. Now, it’s the entire thing.
Furgason said trustees paid $693 in income tax and CPP contributions last year, but that amount will rise to $2,301 under the new rules.
Furthermore, he added, if you extrapolate their current salary and compare it to what a full-time employee earns, “we’d be earning far less than a teacher in the district.
“So I maintain that it’s reasonable of us, it’s not greedy, I’m not committing suicide by suggesting that a raise from $19,000 to $25,000 is reasonable and fair.”
Board chair Dan Coulter said trustees hadn’t given themselves a raise in years because district staff didn’t get one.
“What we did then was tie our raises to CPI, so we have been getting raises every year, two per cent every year.”
Said vice-chair Willow Reichelt: “The remuneration was obviously set in respect to taxation rules, but they’ve changed now, so by my calculations, we’d need to increase our salaries by $2,292 to account for that.”
Furgason’s motion would increased the stipend by $5,507, which would result in a salary nearly $3,400 more than it was before the tax change.
“If the board were to approve this motion, the cost to the district over this board’s term would be $148,274,” Reichelt said. “For some perspective, that’s 6,178 EA [education assistant] hours. I personally can’t vote myself that much of raise that would take away from student learning.”
As the motion made its way around the table and trustees discussed its merit, it soon became apparent that most were uncomfortable with voting themselves a raise without any external recommendations.
In the end, the board followed another councillor’s suggestion and agreed to strike an ad hoc committee of volunteers to “crunch some more numbers.” The motion was deferred until the first meeting in March.