While the premier of the province is suggesting school trustees make cuts on “low-hanging fruit” in administration, SD #62 school board trustees just voted to give themselves a 45 per cent pay raise, rising to 50 per cent over the next two years.
Sooke School District #62 has seven trustees and five of them voted for an increase in their stipend which will rise from $10,000 per year to $14,500 per year with an additional $500 in July 2016. That makes it a 50 per cent increase over the next two years. Trustee Neil Poirier voted against the increase while Ravi Parmar abstained from voting. The other trustee in the Milne’s Landing SD area is Margot Swinburnson. The other four trustees are from the Belmont SD area.
Board chair Bob Phillips defended the need for the increase.
Phillips was re-elected to the school board last November and one of the statements he made during the election was that the board reduced funding for some programs, cut staff and increased bus fees because of a shortfall of $3.5 million. The school district budget is $90 million. He advocated a 10 per cent funding lift for all providing the school district received an extra $750,000. He also said, “Parents and staff (usually teachers) have spent generously from their own time and funds… allowing parents and teachers to shoulder costs is not a sustainable model.”
The remuneration for all of the trustees will cost SD62 $428,500 over the next four years compared to $292,000 which would have been their previous stipend over four years. The board chair receives an extra $2,000/yr.
In defending the raise Phillips said it was only one-tenth of one per cent of the entire SD62 budget. The last lift they had was in 1990 which was a 33 per cent increase. He said SD62 has an increasing student population with 9,180 students, more than many other districts which show a declining student population.
“This distinguishes us from everyone on the Island,” said Phillips. “Enrollment numbers drive the operating budget, it would be different if it was shrinking.”
“In our group of 6,000 to 10,000 students we rank the highest in enrollment and lowest in stipends, we remain the 17th largest school district.” He said SD62 was 45th on trustee remuneration.
Phillips also said that if their figures were correct then that figure should hold and he said it would be better to have a two per cent increase every two years rather than a sizable increase every 10 years.
The school board regularly meets twice a month with various other meetings scheduled throughout the year. If trustees attend meetings in other cities they receive a per diem to cover any costs associated with attending, some costs are covered by a government subsidy.
Phillips said there was nothing historically unusual about the board making the decision to give themselves a raise.
“If people get upset, I’m just doing my job,” said Phillips.