Chilliwack trustees knew what they were in for when they ran

Feel like Chilliwack school trustees are underpaid? Do the research and make a recommendation for the next board.

Rookie school trustee Darrell Furgason gave a textbook example of how not to vote yourself a raise on Tuesday.

In just his fourth board meeting since being sworn in in November, he tabled a motion to increase trustee remuneration to $25,000 annually, from the current $19,000.

The argument for a pay hike holds some water.

However Furgason’s approach – and timing – sank like a stone.

Remuneration has been talked about a lot in municipal governments this year.

That’s because the federal government will now tax all income earned by a trustee or city councillor instead of leaving a portion tax free to allow for expenses. (Chilliwack trustees can also claim an additional $2,500 for other expenses.)

As a result, governments are reviewing their pay scale to compensate for the lost income.

In Chilliwack, the tax-free portion of a trustee’s stipend was $6,000. The change will cut pay by $2,300.

Trustee Furgason is asking for an increase of more than twice that.

READ MORE: Newly elected Chilliwack school trustee calls for 30 per cent pay hike

His argument goes beyond simple compensation. He cites the size of the district’s budget, arguing it is larger than the city’s. He also points to the number of district employees and even how much a teacher earns.

Valid points, perhaps.

Or perhaps not. (The comparison with the city budget, for example, is irrelevant given how much discretion the board actually has over its spending.)

To be sure, what’s needed is an independent review of school trustee compensation in Chilliwack and how it compares with districts of similar size, with trustees with similar duties.

That’s what other school districts have done.

And that’s the motion trustee Furgason should have made.

Ultimately, the board did ask staff to form a committee to review trustee remuneration.

Those recommendations will be forthcoming.

When they do come, the decision should apply to the next board – after the next election.

All trustees knew what the job paid when they ran for office, and none campaigned on increasing their take-home pay by nearly 30 per cent.

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