By Doug Hallett
The pay received by trustees at the Upper Grand District School Board will go down again – slightly – in 2013, and the board’s new chair isn’t amused.
Provincial regulations say “honoraria” that school trustees receive must be adjusted each year based on their boards’ enrolment projections, and there has been a trend towards lower enrolment at the Upper Grand board for a few years.
“Declining enrolment has forced trustees to spend more hours with planning staff because of the resulting accommodation challenges, especially in light of full-day kindergarten and the increasing popularity of French immersion,” board chair Mark Bailey said in an email sent in response to a Tribune query.There will be a $4 drop over the next year in the annual compensation received by the board’s chair and its vice-chair, and a $5 decrease for the board’s other eight trustees, said a board news release.
The new annual pay rates are $17,913 for the chair, $14,634 for the vice-chair and $11,354 for other trustees, effective Dec. 1, 2012.
Bailey, a Guelph trustee, said trustees’ workload has not gone down as enrolment in Upper Grand schools has declined. In fact, he said the opposite is true.
“We’re not complaining, but we do consider it ironic that our honoraria has decreased in line with lower student numbers while our overall workload has, in fact, gone up,” he said.
“I have mixed feelings regarding the current level of trustee honoraria,” said Bailey, who was first elected in 2006.
“On the one hand, most trustees generally run for election because of a passion for public education – I don’t know a single trustee who is in this for the money.
“On the other, the low honoraria could potentially discourage quality candidates from otherwise running for the office, and we need to attract the highest quality candidates we can for such important community positions.
“Trustees are directly accountable for the successful education of our children; there are few public considerations more important than that.”
Despite the gradual decline in honoraria for local trustees, the compensation situation is still better than it was under the previous Progressive Conservative government that ruled Ontario from 1995 to 2003.
The Mike Harris government cut school trustee compensation to $5,000 a year in 1997 and froze it there, while also slashing the number of school boards in the province and the number of trustees on each board.
Former trustee Ralph Edwards of Rockwood, who was elected to the Upper Grand board in 2000, complained after his first year in the job that he’d attended 200 meetings during that year and earned less than $5 an hour.
He got a pay raise in his second year on the board, though, when he was chosen as vice-chair, a post that paid $7,500. The board chair got $10,000 a year at that time.
In 2006, trustee compensation was finally unfrozen, retroactive to September 2005, under a new formula put in place by the Liberal government that took a school board’s enrolment size into account.
As a result, compensation for Upper Grand trustees for the year starting Dec. 1, 2006, rose to $11,534. This consisted of a $5,900 base amount, plus an additional to $5,634 linked to enrolment. The annual compensation for the board chair rose to $18,144, with the vice-chair paid $14,839 that year.
Because of declining enrolment, though, Upper Grand trustees will receive less in the coming year that they got six years ago – $231 less for the chair, $205 less for the vice-chair and $180 less for other trustees.