Central Okanagan Board of Education trustees voted in favour of increasing the stipend to off-set the elimination of a non-taxable remuneration benefit.
Trustees, like municipal councillors had received one-third of their pay tax free, as of Jan. 1, 2019, Canada Revenue Agency will end that exemption, calling it an unfair advantage over other Canadians.
The previous school board had reviewed the issue at the committee level, but opted to allow the newly elected trustees to make the final decision.
What the trustees approved at Wednesday’s board meeting allowed them to maintain their current net pay indemnity by seeing their gross pay increased, at a total annual cost to the school district of $12,799.
That won’t be the case for each trustee, however, depending on their personal income tax structure.
Under the new salary adjustments, a trustee will receive $20,607, up from $18,964; the vice-chair $21,764, up from $19,924; and the chair $23,522, up from $21,381.
In net pay, that amounts to $16,436 for a trustee, $17,267 for vice-chair and $18,530 for the chair.
Board chair Moyra Baxter said all elected officials were aware this decision was pending for two years ago.
Many school boards across the province have not made a decision on how to respond. Kelowna gave an 11 per cent increase to the mayor’s pay and nine per cent to each councillor. Vernon approved an 11 per cent increase to the mayor and council and have adopted changes to compensate for loss of the tax-free salary benefit.
Baxter said school boards are placed in a difficult position of having to decide on giving themselves a raise, but she felt this was a fair compromise.
“It’s the best thing to do in this situation I think,” Baxter said.
She noted serving as a school trustee means accounting for expenses that are not reimbursed in the course of carrying out their duties, such as requiring business vehicle insurance, additional home office expenses such as paper, utilities and Internet connections, and higher monthly fees related to mobile and wireless devices.
Chantelle Desrosiers was the only trustee to oppose the pay raise.
While she did not disagree with the arguments in favour of it, Desrosiers said she ran as a West Kelowna trustee candidate in the election this fall knowing what she was getting into regarding the financial compensation.
“It didn’t feel right for me personally to vote in favour because of that,” she said.