Sooke School District trustees tasked with setting their own pay have voted to give themselves a significant raise.
A proposal to boost their pay by 45 per cent to $14,500 per year, beginning in September, passed easily at Tuesday night’s public board meeting at the district offices.
Vice-chair Bob Phillips, tasked with researching and proposing board remuneration shortly after the board was sworn in last December, came to the table well prepared to defend his numbers.
Phillips and secretary treasurer Harold Cull went through the past 25 years of SD62 budgets, looked at the trustee pay for every school board in the province and incorporated those facets into a proposal to raise the amount from the current $10,000, which was set back in 2007. The rate would increase to $15,000 as of July 2016.
“When we decided to put the data together, Harold and I asked a couple of questions of ourselves,” Phillips told the board. “I guess the first one was (asking) what a trustee does.”
He compared the role of a school board with that of a municipal government, in that they operate a segment of society at a local level, and highlighted the importance of that role.
As part of his presentation, Phillips focused on 10 districts in B.C. with roughly the same number of students as SD62 – from Mission with 5,793 up to Sooke with 9,180. Of those 10 districts, Sooke was tied for second-lowest in trustee compensation while having the highest enrolment figures.
“Altogether, we’re the 17th-largest school district in the province and we’re ranked 45th by trustee remuneration,” Phillips said.
Other factors explored were the upward trend in enrolment – forecasts predict the number of school-aged children in the district to rise approximately 60 per cent by 2036 – and the impact to the SD62 budget, of which Phillips said there would be none.
“The implementation will not involve needing to make any cuts or reductions, and actually there will be money left over.”
Trustee Ravi Parmar chose to abstain from the vote saying as a new trustee with just over two months on the board, he felt uncomfortable voting on giving himself a pay raise.
Only Trustee Neil Poirier was opposed to the remuneration motion. As much as the research justified the pay increase, he said, “I gotta say, in light of the budget cuts again this year, I’m going to vote no.”
Denise Riley added her voice to many others who thanked Phillips and Cull for their research work.
“I don’t want to ever see the remuneration get to a place where one believes this is a job, because it isn’t, it’s public service,” she said, noting it was high time the board addressed making their pay reflect the worthwhile work they do.
After the meeting, Phillips said that they’ve always lagged behind in terms of their payment structure, and even with this raise, they’re still behind other comparable districts.
“The sky wouldn’t have fallen in if we would have gone to $16,392 like Mission, who has half as many kids as us. There’s no appetite from the board to want to go there, but we had to get a fix that was something closer to the size of our district.”