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Okanagan Skaha school trustees set to keep pay frozen

A month after approving a new budget that included employee job cuts, school trustees are set to keep their own pay frozen for a second consecutive year.

Members of the Okanagan Skaha School District’s finance and management committee met Wednesday to review compensation for trustees, and while some expressed a desire to index their pay to inflation, they don’t think the time is right to do it just yet.

“I think status quo this year, because we’ve just had to make $600,000 worth of cuts, and I think we need to just leave it the way it is,” said Trustee Ginny Manning, who chairs the school board. In that role, Manning earns $13,290 a year. Vice-chair Bruce Johnson is paid $12,220 annually, while five other trustees each earn $10,620. A staff report presented to the committee showed Okanagan Skaha’s elected officials are the sixth highest paid among 10 comparison districts that have similar populations.

The richest trustees in that group earn $21,513 annually in New Westminster, while the lowest-paid collect $9,855 in North Okanagan-Shuswap. Of the 10, only West Vancouver gave its trustees a raise last year.

According to the staff report, elected officials for Okanagan Skaha last received a raise in 2011, when their pay was bumped up by 1.7 per cent, but hadn’t seen an increase for three years before that. The committee was also told that administrators haven’t had raises for four years.

Trustee Walter Huebert, who supported the pay freeze, said board members’ compensation doesn’t accurately reflect the amount of work they do.

“It’s not like trustees are over-compensated for anything. In terms of the time spent, I mean, really, it’s almost a volunteer position,” he said.

In May, the board approved a 2013-14 budget that cut 2.4 full-time equivalent staff positions and will lead to the elimination of a program for gifted students in middle schools. And due to declining enrolment, another 7.7 teaching positions are expected to be trimmed next fall. Huebert said elected officials should share the pain.

“It’s not fair to cut other people and then increase our own pay,” he added.

Trustee Linda Van Alphen agreed.

“I concur with Walter because we did do a lot of work, but by the same token we had to make so many cuts that I think it would be disrespectful if we gave ourselves more money,” she said.

The committee voted to recommend the board continue with the freeze on compensation when it deals with the issue at its regular meeting Monday.

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