Some SD23 trustees were feeling pangs of a guilty conscience in adopting a 3.1 per cent indemnity increase for the 2022-23 school year.
Amy Geistlinger felt the increase was too high, seeking to tie the increase to the two per cent contract increase negotiated for teachers rather than the Consumer Price Index.
Calling the increase “slightly lower than what was proposed,” she felt it would send an appropriate message given the board of education has been grappling with a $3.3-million deficit.
The 3.1 per cent indemnity hike would set the stipend for the next board elected in the October civic election at $22,478 for trustees, $23,740 for the vice-chair and $25,657 for the board chair.
The indemnity increases amount to an additional $7,400 hit to the school district budget, while the reduction sought by Geistlinger would amount to $1,726 in savings from that amount.
Geistlinger cited the fluctuating nature of the CPI rating from year-to-year, but Board Chair Moyra Baxter said the CPI was chosen by a previous board as an indemnity increase measurement as a neutral method to deal with a sometimes touchy issue of school boards voting themselves an increase.
Trustee Norah Bowman spoke in favour of the CPI increase, saying everyone “deserves to be paid for the work they do,” and how the indemnity helps people from all walks of income serve as trustees.
“Being a school trustee should not be based on just applying to those who can donate their free time. People sitting on this board should represent all walks of life,” said Bowman.
“Some of us have to deal with juggling a full-time job and child care issues, and those people should not feel excluded from the process of serving on a school board.”
Trustee Julia Fraser noted some trustees in the past have donated their indemnity to charitable causes rather than take it.
Baxter said school boards across the province each choose their own method for indemnity increases, and Central Okanagan trustees fall in the middle of the pack on the indemnity scale.
“There are trustees in the north and in Coquitlam who make an indemnity of $50,000,” she said.
“The point for us is we chose not to increase the indemnity for two years at one point and then the next year the increase was 10 per cent and the feeling was that was not an equitable way to do it.
“So after considering different options, it was decided the CPI was the best way to determine a yearly indemnity increase.
An amendment to limit the increase to two per cent was defeated, and the board approved the 3.1 indemnity hike, with trustees Chantelle Desrosiers, Lee-Anne Tiede and Geistlinger opposed.