Opinion

Editorial — A bad time for school trustees to get a pay raise

There’s never a good time for an elected body to give itself a pay raise, but there are some very bad times to do so. One of those would be right now, and it involves Langley Board of Education.

The trustees haven’t had any pay raises since 2008, as a result of the district accumulating a $13 million deficit that no one seemed to be aware of. Quite rightly, they declined the last pay raise, planned for 2009.

That deficit has now been paid off, but while the 2013-14 school year will see a balanced budget, there is a strong possibility of a $3.3 million deficit in 2014-15. The district is already talking of possible program closures and consolidations, or even school closures.

Then there is the example an 18 per cent pay increase sets. Teachers are in the  midst of intensive bargaining with the province, and are being told quite definitively that increases must be small, and that any increases must be offset by savings elsewhere in the system. Given that environment, how can Langley trustees even consider taking an increase in their stipend? The optics and the message sent to both teachers and taxpayers are terrible.

Trustees historically have set increases to go into effect after a new board is elected. But on a motion from Trustee Rod Ross, the current board agreed to accept increases, as of July 1. This too sets a bad example. If elected bodies are going to set their own salaries, and they have to at this stage, increases should only apply to the new council or board of education taking office after an election.

Trustee Candy Ashdown was the only trustee who got it right. There should be no pay increases in this environment. Period.

And if trustees are dead set on increases after the next election, they should only come into effect if the teachers’ contract is settled, and if trustees can find savings in other areas of the budget to offset the cost of the increases.

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