Decision on raises made easy for trustees this year

Elected officials for Okanagan Skaha have turned down pay increases for several years running on principle

Okanagan Skaha school board chairman Bruce Johnson

Okanagan Skaha school board chairman Bruce Johnson

A dip in the consumer price index left local school trustees without a basis on which to give themselves a pay raise this year, although they likely would have rejected it anyway “on principle.”

Trustees for the Okanagan Skaha School District are entitled by policy to raises tied to inflation in B.C., but a staff report presented at their regular meeting Monday showed the cost of living actually decreased by 0.1 per cent in 2013.

School board chairman Bruce Johnson said trustees would have had a tough time increasing their pay rate had they been eligible.

“Our board in the past couple of years… we’ve felt very awkward voting ourselves a raise — even if it would be a very minor one — when other staff has been frozen, when teachers and (Canadian Union of Public Employees) have been in negotiations,” he explained.

“So in the past we’ve chosen not to vote ourselves a raise, mostly on principle.”

The staff report showed that of the nine other school boards to which the Penticton-based group compares itself based on similar population numbers, just two accepted pay boosts this year.

Okanagan Skaha finance director Maureen Maywood said the board received its last raise during the 2011-12 school year.

Trustees here earn $10,620 annually, below its cohort average of $13,084, while the chairman collects $13,290, well under the group standard of $15,798.

Meanwhile, trustees also voted 4-3 to adopt a new committee meeting schedule for the 2014-15 year that  will see the monthly gatherings set for twice a month over two afternoons through November only, at which point the newly elected board can make its own arrangements.

Committee meetings had previously been scheduled over several lunch hours each month, but Trustee Tracy St. Claire pushed to have them condensed into a single afternoon in order to save the cost of providing food to those in attendance and to make the trustee’s job more appealing to working people with busy schedules.

St. Claire was unsuccessful Monday in her bid to keep the meetings to one day, despite noting that only rarely do all four committee meet each month.

“If you’re looking to have people commit to run in the next election… I think they’re well served to know what the commitment is,” she said.

“And if the commitment’s going to be two short days, that looks a lot different to people with jobs than one longer day.”

Trustees Johnson, St. Claire and Linda Beaven were the three votes in opposition to the new schedule.