SD54’s school board office in Smithers. (Photo: MARISCA BAKKER)

SD54’s school board office in Smithers. (Photo: MARISCA BAKKER)

School trustee pay bump coming July 1

Increases are based on the consumer price index

School District 54 trustees will get an annual stipend increase of 2.8 per cent as of July 1 based on the equivalent rise in the Consumer Price Index after a motion to forego the increase failed in a tie vote.

Provision for the increase, as laid out in school district policy, was discussed at the district’s March 8 operations committee meeting. Committee members made no recommendation as to whether the increase should go ahead or not, leaving it up to the board to decide when trustees met March 22.

Smithers trustee Frank Farrell moved the motion to forgo the increase this year at the March 22 board meeting, drawing the support of another Smithers trustee, Floyd Krishan.

But with chair Jennifer Williams and vice chair Les Kearns, both from Houston, voting the other way, the resulting tie meant the motion failed. And that paves the way for the increase as of July 1.

Three of the seven board members were absent, Priscilla Michell, Jason Krauskopf and Edward Quinlan.

Discussion among board members centered around whether it was appropriate for the board to make a decision that would come in effect for 12 months beginning in July considering the current board’s term is up in October when elections will be held.

Last year’s stipend increase based on the Consumer Price Index was one per cent and came after board members decided not to grant themselves an increase in 2020. That increase would have been 2.3 per cent.

As of July 1, 2021, the chair’s stipend is $15,534.60, the vice chair’s stipend is $12,946.92 and each trustee receives $11,650.80.

With a 2.8 per cent hike as of July 1, the chair’s stipend will be $15,969.57, the vice chair’s will be $13,309.43 and that of a trustee will be $11,977.02.

Trustees did vote to increase their annual stipends in 2019 by 19 per cent but that was to offset a change in federal tax law.

Up until that year, a portion of their pay had been considered a non-taxable expense allowance but that was done away with, a move that affected many local governments and school districts.

So to compensate for what amounted to an increase in taxation, trustees voted that double-digit increase.

Information provided indicates trustee raises through the consumer price index went through in 2018, 2017, 2014, 2009 and 2001 as well as 2021.

Trustees do receive a per diem meal allowance when on official business for meals not provided at an event they are attending, a mileage allowance when traveling on official business and are reimbursed for room costs only when on official business.

Alcohol and gratuities are not regarded as reasonable expenses for reimbursement purposes.