While Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools trustees are expected to vote on wage increases at an upcoming meeting, it will be for the next elected board and not the current one.
Currently, the board chairperson is compensated $20,470 annually, while trustees receive $18,470, but at the district business committee meeting last Wednesday, trustees debated whether to increase chairperson pay to $22,828 a year, establish an annual rate of $21,828 for the vice-chairperson and increase trustee pay to $20,828. Ultimately, the committee recommended raises take effect for the next board and in addition, a committee on remuneration and expense allowances be established.
Charlene McKay, board chairwoman, said the remuneration motion was put together based on various feedback, but after reviewing it, she would not support it and introduced amendments. It has been an ongoing issue and the board needs to decide how to move forward, she said.
Stephanie Higginson said she struggled with the increased pay, whether it was now or for future boards. She said the increase “far outweighs” the school district’s unionized employees’ two-per cent increase for three years.
“I do not believe that we should be making motions about our own pay, so while trustee McKay’s proposal will deal with that particular issue, I think that the amounts that are suggested are well outside of what we have asked our unionized employees to take…” Higginson said. “We need to take into consideration that we did last January give ourselves a raise as well, although it was in relation to [an income tax] increase so our take-home was still the same. If we give ourselves another raise, then we’re almost looking at about a 20 per cent raise in just under a year.”
While trustee Jessica Stanley said the timing is terrible, with teachers negotiating for a new deal, she would argue for the increase. Trustees are not exceptionally well paid for the work they do, she said.
“I want to put [teacher bargaining] aside not out of disrespect, but just out of the fact that I think the work we do is valuable and I think the work of representation is valuable,” said Stanley. “I am concerned that when we ask people to represent us in a community, if we expect it to be a low-paid or volunteer-type thing then … you’re only going to get the privileged to represent you in those positions of decision-making processes and I frankly don’t want the rich and privileged to be the only people that make decisions about governance. I want governance to reflect the diversity of people in our community.”
Recommendations related to establishment of a trustee group benefit plan were taken off the table at the suggestion of Taunia Sutton, district director of finance, who said staff wanted more time to review related information.
The regular board meeting takes place Wednesday, March 11.