Victoria school trustees to decide on pay raises

Greater Victoria school trustees will decide Monday whether to boost their own pay by as much as 10 per cent.

The board unanimously rejected the increase nearly two years ago when public-sector unions were being told to accept a wage freeze.

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But now that school support staff have tentatively agreed to a 3.5 per cent wage hike over two years, trustees plan to reopen the debate on their salaries.

A previous board agreed in 2005 to review trustees’ pay automatically every three years and compare it to the average of five similar districts: Central Okanagan, Abbotsford, Langley, Richmond and Burnaby.

Based on that formula, trustees’ annual pay would have jumped more than 10 per cent to $19,270 a year from $17,424 in January 2012.

The issue was tabled at the time, and trustee Tom Ferris has moved that the board automatically re-establish the formula once the contract for education assistants, bus drivers, custodians and other support workers is finalized.

The workers, who are represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees, have until Dec. 20 to ratify the deal.

“We anticipate that CUPE will settle in December,” Ferris said.

“We don’t know that for sure, but we anticipate they will, and in anticipation of that … we’ll just go back to doing what we were doing before.”

He noted that trustees have not had an increase in five years. Any increase would not be retroactive, he said.

“I mean, really, not to pass [the motion] is simply to penalize trustees who come after you,” he said.

“It’s not a huge wage or anything like this, but you have to offer people who are running, seeking the seat … something, because they’re going to give up a lot of time.”

But trustee Diane McNally plans to vote against a raise.

“It just doesn’t feel right given the climate of financial desperation that school boards particularly are under,” she said.

McNally noted that districts are having to come up with “savings plans” to cover the cost of pay raises for support staff.

The impact on her district is about $1.2 million, which boosts the projected budget shortfall next year to $11 million. It’s inevitable that students will be hurt by the cuts, she said.

“This is a civic service, and yes, I do a lot of work and I appreciate getting a salary for it,” she said.

“But I don’t think we should take any more given the fiscal constraints that boards are operating under and [that] classrooms and everybody in public education is dealing with.”

Under the proposal rejected by the board in January 2012, stipends for the board chairperson and vice-chairperson would remain unchanged at $3,000 and $1,500 annually.

The proposal also called for trustees to continue receiving $2,000 a year for meetings, conferences and professional development.

lkines@timescolonist.com

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