The Fraser-Cascade School District trustees have given themselves a $10,000 raise, in an attempt to bring them on equal footing with other school boards in the area.
According to information from the Trustee Stipend Ad Hoc Committee, the last significant increase the school board has seen for trustee remuneration was in 1994, when the stipend increased from $5,000 to $10,000. Since then, the stipend has increased incrementally to its current amount of $11,523.
The ad hoc committee has been meeting since the beginning of January, after trustee Tom Hendrickson suggested that the remuneration for the school board should be looked at.
Hendrickson passed away in April of this year, but his influence on the committee’s recommendation to increase the trustee stipend did not go unnoticed.
“One of the things that he said made a lot of sense,” said vice-chair Ron Johnstone said about Hendrickson’s support for the project at the June 18 school board meeting.
“‘Nobody should have to work next to somebody doing the same work and getting paid at a very much lower rate.’”
The idea of equal work for equal pay was a driving factor in the board’s decision to approve the $10,000 increase, which would see the base trustee pay go from $11,523 to $21,500.
As trustee John Koopman noted in his brief presentation to the board, the Fraser-Cascade school board has 19 committees, including the ad hoc committees, while Chilliwack has 11, Abbotsford has 13, Langley has 16 and Mission has 5. (Mission’s committee of the whole takes the place of several other committees.)
He also noted that the Fraser-Cascade School District has “far more First Nations bands than the other districts by far, not to mention the geographic area, especially with our new school” at the north end of Harrison Lake.
According to numbers obtained by SD78 from each school district, Chilliwack trustees receive $20,401 a year, Abbotsford trustees receive $24,200 a year, Langley trustees receive $28,400 a year and Mission trustees receive $23,200.
(A Mission school trustee called the Observer to say the remuneration for his district was significantly lower than reported. Figures from 2017 that were used in a 2018 report to explore the possibility of an increase for Mission trustees put their stipend at $16,392.)
“I was astounded when I saw these numbers, because I had no idea that we were that far behind,” Johnstone said.
Trustee Marilyn Warren noted that even with the nearly 100 per cent increase, Fraser-Cascade board members would still be the lowest paid in the Fraser Valley area.
Many of the surrounding school boards had already voted in increases for themselves because of a change in federal regulations, which removed a tax exemption which had been in place for up to a third of trustees’ remuneration and expenses.
The board voted unanimously to approve the increase. (Trustee Wendy Coleman-Lawley, who was part of the ad hoc committee, was not present for the vote.)
The new remuneration for trustees will be $21,500, with the vice-chair receiving $22,500 and the chair receiving $24,500. These change will be effective retroactively from Jan. 1, 2019.