Adjustments to trustees’ pay was one of the first agenda items to come to the table for members of the school district’s business committee.
With new tax laws taking effect in 2019, increasing board pay to account for changes was discussed by Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ business committee last Wednesday.
Currently, a third of school trustee remuneration isn’t taxable, as the Canada Revenue Agency deems it an expense allowance, but that will change in January, when the full amount will be taxable. The CRA told the News Bulletin the exemption for non-accountable allowances paid to certain public officials provides an advantage not enjoyed by other Canadians. As such, these amounts will be required to be included as income.
As it stands, the board chairperson receives $19,070 annually, while trustees are paid $17,070 annually, but a staff report suggests that a one-time increase to $20,470 for chairperson and $18,470 for trustees would mitigate the loss of money, Carrie McVeigh, school district secretary-treasurer, said at the meeting.
“Our payroll department ran some numbers based on annual current remuneration and if we adjust it by $1,400 a year … it wouldn’t have a negative impact on trustees, bearing in mind that the only way we were able to do this was simply to take the annual salary, apply basic personal tax amount and every trustee is going to have different exemptions or claims that would vary this to quite a degree, so that’s the only way we could do it to make it consistent,” said McVeigh.
Trustees had varying opinions. Elaine Wilkinson said she wasn’t comfortable voting for a raise so soon after the October election. Jessica Stanley agreed, but said she was in favour of the move as trustees are losing pay and put in a lot of time and effort, she said.
“I know from a professional perspective, I could make a lot more money if I was working in my professional capacity (clinical psychology), said Stanley. “But I feel that doing this work is of importance to our community … I think that it’s important that we value that job and that work and I think that’s relevant for all politicians. Unfortunately politician can be a dirty word and they can be viewed negatively, especially if they’re viewed as lining their own pockets, but I would suggest that when we’re paid fairly little for an important job, and then what we’re looking at is being paid less for what I believe to be an important job, I am concerned that what we’d subsequently be doing is undermining the value of the position and the capacity to draw people of appropriate level of skills and educational background.”
Another consideration, according to McVeigh, was that previous trustees were afforded group benefits, via B.C. Public Sector Employers’ Association, which negotiates for school boards in teacher-related bargaining issues. That has been discontinued in 2015 as BCPSEA stated in 2015 that trustees are not considered employees – returning trustees will continue receiving benefits, but new trustees will not.
The recommendation was deferred and will be brought back in January to address both remuneration and benefits.