Halton District School Board trustees voted themselves $10,000 in retroactive pay-- money that will come from the school board's budget-- while also giving the OK to more than doubling the stipend for the next set of trustees. When the board convened a special meeting before Wednesday's regular session only Oakville trustee Mary Chapin, who is not seeking re-election in the Nov. 13 municipal election, voted against the retroactive component of trustee pay. "I cannot, in good conscience, OK retroactive pay for the members of this board," Chapin said at the meeting, saying trustees had wasted about $1 million on "buyouts and legal fees", a reference to the money spent in 2005 during the controversial contract severance given to former education director Dusty Papke. On Thursday, Chapin said she was heading to the board office to sign over her retroactive paycheque of $8,780.09 ($7,760.10 net) to the Halton Learning Foundation, a fundraising arm of the board. "I do not begrudge this `catch-up' for trustees who have been responsible to the public education system and responsive to the families of Halton, but on this board are a number of trustees (a simple majority) who have, in pursuit of their
personal goals, made decisions that unnecessarily cost the system approximately $1 million." Board chair Paul Tate defended voting in favour of the retroactivity stating trustees had "stood up to their responsibilities" in handling a variety of difficult issues over the last term. "We earned this money-- in spades," he said. New provincial regulations make it possible for boards to dramatically increase the annual stipend for subsequent boards, and to award back pay. Each trustee will receive $8,153 in back pay for the period Sept. 1, 2005 to Sept. 1, 2006. As well, each trustee will get an additional $1,882 tacked on to their monthly pay, spread out from September through November 2006, as part of the entire 15-month retroactive period.
The board also approved, by an 11-0 vote, to increase regular trustee pay to $13,159 per year from the current $5,000 annual flat rate across the province. The new pay scale is in effect from Dec. 1, 2006 to the end of November 2010. Board vice-chairs and chairs will make an extra $2,500 and $5,000 respectively annually beyond the trustee base amount. Factoring in a student enrolment amount, which will be re-calculated every year, the Halton board chair will make $20,475 and the vice-chair $16,830. Board superintendent of finance Steve Parfeniuk said previously that the $88,683 in trustee retroactive pay has to be absorbed by the board. He said he expects the Ministry of Education will cover the difference in trustee pay at the new amount. Trustees' annual pay has been $5,000 since the Conservative government of Mike Harris changed the pay scale in 1997 to a flat-rate system for the 72 school boards in the province. Previously, trustees set their own pay. In 1996, Halton trustees received $12,252 annually while the board chair got $18,372. At the special meeting, trustees also amended its policy concerning student trustees. Student trustees who go on to attend college or university are eligible for a $2,500 honorarium for each year they serve on the board. Student trustee terms are for one year but they can be reappointed to another term.
`We earned this money-- in spades.'
--Board chair Paul Tate