Trustees for Border Land School Division (BLSD) have opted not to increase their pay in order to offset a change to the Income Tax Act that eliminates a one-third non-taxable allowance to annual indemnities. The move by the federal government in September means the full amount of a trustee's yearly municipal earnings will now be taxed.
An indemnity is an amount paid out to elected officials like councillors or school trustees as compensation for participating in regularly scheduled meetings and other related business.
Patty Wiebe, BLSD Vice Chair, says the decision not to increase the rate was only fair considering the provincial government mandated zero percent increases for division staff.
"We will continue on, we will pay the tax and we will leave our indemnities the way they are," she said.
In fact, this will be the fourth year in a row that the annual indemnity rates remain the same for BLSD trustees.
The amount paid out to the Chair is locked in at $10,800 for the year, the Vice Chair will continue to get $9,450 and the regular member rate is frozen at $8,400.
However, the hourly rate paid to trustees for work outside of regular meetings has gone up for the first time in three years to $20 per hour, and to a maximum of $200 per day. This increase of just over $6 an hour is intended to help offset lost wages when school division business takes trustees away from their regular jobs.
"In order to have quality people, we need to be able to support that in an adequate way to appreciate the time that they are taking from their jobs," explained Wiebe.
That being said, she noted these extra meetings don't happen very often.
"We tend to make our (regular) meetings as full as we can and do as much as we can, but there are times where there are extra meetings that we do need to attend."
In fact, total additional hours logged by BLSD trustees went down by 149 between 2017 and 2018. The cost of additional hours has also gone down about 50% since 2015.