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Abbotsford school trustees defend 24% pay increase by previous board

Annual figure jumps to about $239K due to recent changes to remuneration policy, inflation rate
The new Abbotsford school board includes (clockwise from top left): Korky Neufeld, Stan Petersen, Jared White, Mike Rauch, Rupi Kanda-Rajwan, Preet Rai and Shirley Wilson. The board was inaugurated on Nov. 15. (Submitted image)

The newly elected Abbotsford school board will be paid a total of about $53,000 more annually than the district’s last board.

That’s about a 24 per cent increase for remuneration alone, up to $239,353 effective Dec. 1 from $189,720 previously.

Abbotsford trustees have been receiving $25,810 annually for the last four years. The board’s vice-chair was receiving $28,400 and the chair was receiving $32,270. Those numbers were calculated based on 40 per cent of the average, full-time worker in Abbotsford, and do not include a separate fund for special expenses.

But an ad-hoc committee consisting of select community members was struck early in 2021 to come up with recommendations for the incoming board after the election. They recommended an increase to 45 per cent of an average worker’s salary, and wrote several pages to back up their reasoning.

They also recommended an increase to the extra allotment for board and vice-chair — 1.25 per cent to 1.3 per cent, and 1.1 per cent to 1.15 per cent respectively.

Those increases alone would have hiked remuneration paid to trustees by several thousand dollars each. But the calculations used didn’t include the possibility of the recent inflation hike; in fact, the report includes estimates that were quite short of the actual figures.

A trustee will now receive $32,128 annually. The board’s vice-chair will receive $36,947 and the chair will receive $41,766.

The chair is now Korky Neufeld, who would have previously been receiving the $25,810 amount. The vice-chair position is held by new trustee Mike Rauch.

The board received the report at their Dec. 13 meeting, and new trustee Jared White asked the board how to explain the increase to the public. Shirley Wilson advised him to refer people to the report from June, “that will answer many of their questions.”

“It’s fair to say to the teacher shortage in this district has absolutely nothing to do with this raise,” White confirmed, referencing public responses to an earlier version of this story online. “It’s not like we can give this money and suddenly everything would be great.”

Wilson, who has been a trustee in Abbotsford for many years, clarified further that trustees are often pulled away from family and their regular work duties for board work, which is done on behalf of the public.

“The work is complicated, it’s complex and if it was easy they wouldn’t need us,” she said. “While there is a steeper increase at this time, nobody here is gaining financially from this. This is put back into the work that we do.”

The issue will come up for discussion again in 2026, when a new ad-hoc committee will be formed to repeat this process for the next board.

The committee was chaired by lawyer Douglas McAdams, and included John Morrow, a director of Abbotsford Community Foundation; Shannon Rose, District Parent Advisory Council president; and Keven Mierau, secretary for Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce.

Their 14-page report outlined the basis for the changes, including the typical number of hours put into the role by trustees and comparisons to city councillor remuneration, which is set at 75 per cent.

By comparison, Chilliwack school board trustee remuneration was adjusted to the Consumer Price Index in the summer and ranges from about $24,000 to $27,000.

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Jessica Peters

About the Author: Jessica Peters

I began my career in 1999, covering communities across the Fraser Valley ever since.
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