School District 20’s Board of Education has made difficult decisions to balance budgets.
But there are savings sitting right around the table and it’s about time trustees took a hard look at their own numbers, according to trustee Mark Wilson.
“We have to always show that we’re leading as an example. It costs money for a trustee, and we’ve reduced and reduced everything, yet we’ve never touched a trustee once,” he said. “I mean we never really had a good look at it, and I think it’s time that we have a review.”
Like Wilson, the majority sided with trustee Toni Driutti’s motion to establish a committee to review the electoral wards and the number of representatives in School District 20. All but trustees Mickey Kinakin, Gord Smith and Kim Mandoli voted in favour at Monday night’s regular school board meeting.
Currently, the district is represented by nine trustees. The thought of moving away from a ward system, the subdivided system currently in place, to an open or partial ward/open system has some trustees worried about the redistribution of seats. Currently, each ward is divided based on population with representation across the entire district but an open system could do away with borders and officials could be elected at large.
“You’ve got to look at it objectively,” added Wilson. “The fact is that it has not changed in (my) 44 years but our schools have changed.”
This was the main reason Driutti asked for the review.
“The wards were drawn up to have equal representation for trustees, but right now they’re out of line, as far as I’m concerned,” she said, pointing to some trustees who no longer have schools in their coverage area. “Financially, maybe this needs to happen. We no longer have the enrolment that we started off with when we first started off with nine trustees. Our wards have changed.”
Trustee stipends are set each December. Currently, a board chair brings in about $13,840; a vice chair is slightly less at $11,800 while a trustee banks approximately $10,770.
Trustee Terry Hanik compared the nine-person board representing a population of 20,000 to Kelowna’s seven trustees in the city of 250,000.
“It’s pretty hard to justify,” he said. “It just doesn’t make sense that we have this many trustees with the population that we have.”
But this view was not shared by all. Kinakin doesn’t see the cost savings out weighing the representation the board currently has. He fears the board could be worse off if it “opens up this can of worms.”
“Be careful what you ask for,” he warned.
The matter has been brought up time and again but has always been defeated.
In 2013, trustees voted in favour of setting up an adhoc committee to explore the possible reduction in numbers, electoral areas, and the Ministry of Education requirements surrounding each. Prior to that, in 2010, a request that the board strike a committee to review trustee numbers and areas of representation did not pass.