Today’s Poll

Adams and Cherbo balk at proposed cuts to council expense accounts

Bill Metcalfe
By Bill Metcalfe
August 15th, 2014

Two Nelson city councillors don’t like a cutback in their expense accounts that has been suggested by an independent research committee. The ad hoc Council Indemnity Committee’s job was to check whether council’s pay and benefits are in line with other employees and with councillors in other similarly sized cities.

The committee was formed in May, and its recommendations came to the August 11 council meeting.

The committee recommends that councillors and the mayor should no longer get a $1000 annual clothing and technology allowance, but should instead get $1500 for clothing and technology only once, at the beginning of each term.

At Monday’s council meeting, Councillor Bob Adams objected to the change, saying that the new rate won’t be sufficient because he usually buys “a couple of jackets and ties at the beginning of each year.”

Councillor Robin Cherbo was adamant that $1500 over an entire term would not be enough, especially considering that starting this year, municipal councils in B.C. will be elected for terms of four years rather than three.

Councillors do not need to use the technology allowance for technology that the city requires them to use on the job, such as iPads paid for by the city.

Councillor Donna Macdonald said she doesn’t often use her clothing allowance and she said she thinks councillors are well compensated overall.

“When I was first elected in 1988, councillors were paid $400 per month and that was it.” She said they got a travel allowance in addition to that, but no other benefits.

Nelson city councillors will make about $15,200 in 2014 and the mayor will make about $35,500, both up a little from last year. They also get travel expenses while on city business as well as extended health, dental, vision care, a life insurance policy, and the clothing/technology allowance.

The mayor will make an additional $2186 for his role as chair of the Police Board.

The committee also recommended a change in how yearly increases in the basic pay would be calculated. It suggests using the average of the B.C. inflation rate, and 2%.

And it recommended one further change: loss of wages should be paid to self-employed councillors only if they lose wages because of necessary council travel (at a rate of $123.62 per day) rather than automatically as is current practice.

The indemnity committee, in accordance with city policy, consisted of a former city councillor, a member of the business community, and a member of the non-profit sector.

UPDATE August 18: The members of the committee were Kim Charlesworth, ex-councillor; Justin Pelant, businessman; and Rona Park, non-profit sector. 

Because of the objections of Cherbo and Adams, the matter has been sent back to management staff for further consideration, and for clarification of the reasons for the committee’s decisions.

This article was updated on August 18 to correct two errors. Councillor Macdonald says the stipend in 1988 was $400 per month, not per year as the article mistakenly stated.

Also, we added the fact that the loss of wages benefit for self-employed councillors is currently paid automatically (but will not be in the future unless the councillor can show they have lost wages).

Categories: GeneralPolitics