Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Susan Semonick On Schools - April 2, 2008 - Trustees Board of Education Meeting Report (March 27, 2008)

For the Board’s synopsis of the meeting please go to this link at SD 35:

Here is what is not included in the district’s Board News (in no particular order)….


Hattie Hogeterp announced she would be running in the next election. I understand that she no longer works for the Community School Programs at Shortreed and ACSS. At least there will not be a question of conflict of interest on that point this coming election. There is a BCCPAC resolution being discussed with the Ministry dealing with situations such as this and a request to expand the definition of employee.


A trustee openly admitted during Trustee Comments that she was obviously not aware of what she voted on to approve at least at one of the Board meetings. After listening to my presentation on the 2008/09-budget proposal, in which I suggested the elimination of a trustee allocation for computer equipment, she openly stated she was not aware that she could be reimbursed for a computer she had just purchased. Clearly, the board minutes of June 20, 2006 record Trustee McVeigh’s motion regarding the automatic trustee raises in December of each year as well as the technology allocation. Scary, is it not, that someone would approve something that they have no complete idea of the content or ramifications that such approval would have on the budget? Sound familiar folks? In my opinion, it appears that one could extrapolate that perhaps some trustees make decisions without knowing what the cost of raising their hand will be. This is what was approved at the June, 20 2006 board meeting ………….

1. The indemnity rate effective July st, 2006 be increase to
Trustee $13,000..As of December 1st 2007 Trustee Indemnity was increased to $16,886Vice-Chair $14,000...........................................$17,886
Chair $15,000....................................................$18,886
One-third of indemnity rate is non-taxable expense allowance as per the Income Tax Act.

2. (a) The Trustee indemnity rate be adjusted every December 1st to be the average of eight lower mainland School Districts, including: Abbotsford, Delta, Richmond, Burnaby, New Westminister, Maple Ridge, North Vancouver and Langley.

(b) Every three (3) years the trustee indemnity rate be reviewed to ensure the current value is comparable with school districts of comparable size.

3. As required, trustees be provided with technology resources deemed necessary by the Board. Any technology equipment provided by the District would be returned to the District, upon termination of their role as Trustee. There was a claim of at least $1500.00 according to Mr. Greenwood. I wonder if the Board Member is not re-elected how quickly items will be returned?
4. (a) Starting at the beginning of the next term for elected trustees, access to School District Health Plans be available to trustees with individual trustees assuming full cost of the premiums.

(b) The current trustee cost-sharing of Health Plan premiums ( 25% Trustee, 75% School District) be phased-out over the balance of the term:

June, 2007 50%Trustee/50% School District . At the budget open house last year it
appeared that the reduction was still not applied it was stated it would be corrected.Wonder how they process that refund back to the district?

June, 2008 75% Trustee/25% School District.

Is this perhaps another thing that voters might want to consider before marking their ballots come November?

This board also believes that this has no relation to the current policy #1400 in existence it apparently is unrelated. How that can be when it is about Indemnity has me questioning their ability to conduct simple business.

It states: “ The annual trustee indemnity may be reviewed each year at a public meeting in June.
The indemnity shall normally be paid on a bi-weekly basis with two-thirds (2/3) considered indemnity and one-third (1/3) considered as expense.
A Trustee who resigns prior to completing his term of office, shall refund on a pro-rated basis any indemnity received for his unexpired term of office to the Board.”

If this is related to the same topic, has this Board acquired raises by side stepping change of policy procedures to attain major raises before their end of term? All this while they are closing schools to create revenue.

One trustee wanted to get to the “truth of the matter” about my proposal to reduce two trustee seats on the board. This of course is my favorite subject and I have spent obviously more time analyzing this than any person challenging my numbers although they are the ones making decisions - how sad.

To the surprise of few people used to dealing with the school district, there is a difference between how they calculate cost and how “regular folks” determine cost. They just spew out the figures for the trustee indemnity and budgeted trustee expenses. Like most other people, I include all expenses reasonably attributable to having an extra trustee, regardless of which budget line item it is included in – after all, there is only ‘one envelope’ as the Board is so fond of saying.

Here goes my version of what is fact. The base indemnity is currently $16,886 of which one-third is tax-free. Trustees also have a $1,800.00 expense allowance for which they must supply receipts. One trustee overspent her allowance by three times in 2006. There seems to be an individual allocation but it appears that if you don’t spend it another trustee can spend it for you – a communal pot so to speak - nice. Therefore, the basic cost of one trustee is approximately $18,686.00 using simple math and information easily accessible. For two trustees the basic cost would be about $37,372.00, or as the Secretary-Treasurer stated about $35,000. Funny how it seems when the District gives costs they round down instead of up.

Then you have the other costs, which the district does not seem to recognize as costs of having a trustee, perhaps because they are included in other budget departments. These are:

Conferences $350.00 x 3 per year on average for each
Photocopying/ Office $100.00 / Trustee / year
Courier $500.00 / Trustee/ year
Meals during meetings $100.00 / Trustee/ year covers about 5 meetings per year
Retirement dinner $30.00 per plate
Staff time paper work (cheques) instruction, research estimated cost --- 2,500.00

They also have Mileage coverage of .50/km Average distance traveled 14 km per meeting one way.

Meal allowances while on district business of Breakfast $10.00 Lunch $12.00 Dinner $20.00 Full Day $50.00 Overnight allowances or miscellaneous incidental expenses $8.00/ night.

Hotel costs covered when they attend conferences.

The above are estimated and included in other budget line items like Pro-D, office expenses, superintendent’s budget allocation, etc. but I believe my estimates are reasonable and generously low, based upon the figures provided in the proposed budgets that I have seen and comments from trustees who explain that trustees attend an average of three conferences a year. Trustee packages are photocopied and couriered to them each Friday. Periodically throughout the year, meals are brought in for trustee meetings.

Then there is the possible raise they will receive in December 2008 that I estimate reasonably to be about 4.5% considering that their last automatic increase this past December 2007 was close to 9.5%. This would be approximately $760.00 at 4.5% and about $1604 at 9.5%.

Then you would have to add the cost of any technology equipment that I would estimate could be about $1,400 for a computer and software. Although, as noted above, if trustees do not know what they voted for, perhaps the district could save some money.

There are likely other incidentals embedded in other departmental budgets that I have not gotten around to figuring out yet. So, my $50,000 estimate Calculated in September 2006 isn’t that far off is it? Had they reduced the number of trustees before the refurbishment of the Boardroom, the district could have also saved the cost of two extra microphones and two new comfortable executive chairs.

Regardless of what the final figure may be, let us see that potential annual savings going to the students. I, for one, will admit a mistake (error) if one has been made, unlike others.

Numbers about the size of boards of educations, student enrolment, and geographic area in other districts, were thrown about by one trustee. I will have a more comprehensive report about this at a later date. Suffice it to say at this time that the district and I do not share the same analysis of the data available.

There you have it. I don’t even receive an indemnity and have figured this one out. Maybe if the focus were on giving the facts and not trying to discredit someone, it would make more sense.

Now back to what matters. This is truly, one way in which any district could direct more money into the classrooms. This is not debatable - it is a fact. At any given time I would rather see fewer politicians if it meant better education for a student. Overseeing a school district is a complicated business and requires more than the simple math some trustees seem to be doing. This does not make for good decision-making. Electing fewer, better educated trustees is more palatable option than having a greater number of trustees with less than stellar accounting skills and common sense – quality over quantity, as is being demonstrated in other school districts.


The Budget Open House will be held on April 22 from 6:30 to 8 PM at the School Board Offices (see calender at the bottom of this blog for map & details). Please attend this event so you can see for yourself what the base cost of a trustee to date is.

No comments:

Post a Comment