Maple Ridge school trustees vote pay increase

Small raise applies only to incoming board.

Mike Murray

Mike Murray

Incoming trustees in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows will receive an inflationary raise.

With the Nov. 15 municipal elections coming, trustees have set remuneration for the new school board at a base rate of $18,832, effective Dec. 1, 2014.

That is a $279 per year raise from the current rate of $18,553, or 1.5 per cent. Trustees also receive a car allowance of $750 for in-district travel.

The board chairperson, presently Mike Murray, gets an additional $3,000, and the vice-chair $1,500 more than trustees.

Salaries will be $18,832 for trustees, $20,332 for the vice-chair and $21,832 for the chairperson.

Two outgoing trustees, Sarah Nelson and Kathy Marshall, both spoke against the increase, but were outvoted last week by their peers who are running for office again.

Nelson said there should be a province-wide process for setting trustee salaries.

“It’s ridiculous that we create the remuneration process from board to board,” she said.

Secondly, she sees trustees as virtually powerless in the education system, as budgets are tightly controlled by the provincial government, and that there is little local autonomy. Given that, she disagrees with local politicians increasing their pay.

In considering the issue, the board compared its remuneration to trustees in Abbotsford, Langley, Delta, Richmond, Burnaby, Coquitlam and North Vancouver school districts. Coquitlam pays trustees $37,000 per year, and board chair $39,000, as the highest of the comparables. Most districts were in the $22,000 range.

Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows trustees were the lowest-paid at $18,553, and their last increase was January 2012.

The trustees decided against a proposed raise to $23,642, which would represent the average remuneration of selected school districts.

George Serra, president of the Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association, said the optics are bad for a board voting itself a raise while making budget cuts every year.

However, he asserts that every employee of the board deserves a raise, and it is only underfunding by the provincial government that creates funding shortfalls in the district.

“But I have some issues about the process they used,” said Serra, noting that almost all of the districts the board is being compared with are bigger than School District No. 42.

In the remuneration of local government officials, population size is always a key factor. He said the board should have compared itself with school districts in cities like Kamloops and Nanaimo, and created “a better group.”

He said by comparing itself with larger districts, the board is “kind of setting it up.”

In terms of student population, only Delta is the same size as Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows, while Coquitlam is approximately double the size.

Board chair Mike Murray agreed that the group of districts was generally too large, and said that could be revised.

“But the job is the job, no matter how many students you have,” he added, noting that some boards meet just once per month, while the local board meets twice.

“Where we ended up is still at the lowest end of that scale,” said Murray. “I think we’re in an appropriate place.”

He agreed with fellow trustees who argued that without small, incremental raises, the trustees would fall too far behind other boards.

He  said the trustee stipend should be enough to replace lost earning potential.

“I want people to feel they can run (for trustee) even if it means they have to give up a day of work once in awhile,” he said. “This should not be the exclusive domain of retirees.”

The trustees also approved the annual adjustment of trustee remuneration for the period 2014-2019 effective on July 1 each year, based on the Metro Vancouver Consumer Price Index differential for the prior year.

The board reduced professional development funding allocated to all trustees by $7,000 during the last budget review.