Today’s Poll

Council wants reconsideration of proposed increase to mayor’s salary

Bill Metcalfe
By Bill Metcalfe
September 5th, 2014

At its September 2 meeting, for the second time this summer, Nelson City Council rejected a proposal that would make changes to councillors’ and the mayor’s benefits and salaries, and sent it back to city staff to be re-worked.

The first time was at the August 11 council meeting, when council rejected a proposal by the Council Indemnity Committee because some councillors were not in favour of cuts to their expenses, and because of some issues of vague wording.

Indemnity committee: community-based and neutral

Every few years, council sets up an indemnity committee which, in accordance with city policy, is a temporary volunteer committee that must consist of a former city councillor, a member of the business community, and a member of the non-profit sector. In this year’s version of the committee, those members are Kim Charlesworth, Justin Pelant, and Rona Park, respectively.

City staff recommends increase to mayor’s and councillors’ salaries

On September 2, the revised proposal came to the council table with no change to the recommendation for councillors’ expenses that were an issue last time, but with a new surprise: a significant raise in the mayor’s salary from $35,458 to  $44,244, and a 13% increase to the salaries of councillors from $15,299 to $17,048.

Mayor John Dooley was not at the meeting, which was chaired by acting mayor Deb Kozak.

This second version of the proposal came from the city manager with no input from the indemnity committee. The committee in its original proposal had not recommended any change to the mayor’s or the councillors’ salaries. 

City manager: indemnity committee had wrong information

City manager Kevin Cormack explained that councillors’ and the mayor’s salaries were arrived at by comparing them with several other B.C. cities of similar size, but that when the indemnity committee made its original recommendations they had the wrong information about those other communities.

The increased mayor salary is based on updated information that the committee did not have, he told council. He said city staff changed the recommended mayor salary to be in line with the median salary of six mayors in other communities, and he recommended that council approve the new version of the proposal, which is attached below.

Macdonald and Batycki: we should respect the volunteer committee

Councillor Macdonald objected. She said the changed recommendation should be coming from the volunteer committee, not city staff.

“This is a difficult decision for councils because we are seen as giving ourselves a raise, and that was why many years ago council set up a process to have a independent view of the situation. We created the community committee who would review the information. It was supposed to be a community-based process. We should send it back to them so the recommendation is coming from the community, not from council, not from staff.”

Councillor Candace Batycki agreed with Macdonald.

“It is important if we are asking people to volunteer that we honour their recommendations,” she said. “If there is new information, we should refer it back to them.”

Adams and Cherbo: the committee won’t mind

Councillors Robin Cherbo and Bob Adams disagreed.

“The people on the committee will not get upset,” said Adams.  “Staff had a reason for what they did, and if they want to come and ask staff why they changed their recommendation, I am sure they can do that.”

Kiss: what about people with kids and jobs?

Councillor Paula Kiss agreed with Macdonald and added a further reason to send it back to the committee. She said there should be provision to cover the expenses of councillors with children and with full time jobs.

“There is a predisposition to people running for council once they retire,” she said, adding that while on council she has always had two other jobs, and this has made it hard to go to conferences and extra meetings. She said there should also be a child care allowance.

“If we want a proper cross section of our community to be represented on council, allow for people with children and people with jobs. If this is to go back to committee, they should look at precedents from other municipalities.”

Council voted to have the indemnity committee reconsider the proposal, with Councillors Cherbo and Adams voting against.

Related story in The Nelson Daily: Adams and Cherbo balk at proposed changes to council expense accounts (August 14, 2014)

 

UPDATE

This story was updated on September 8 to include the proposed increase to councillors’ salaries. The earlier version focussed on the proposed increase for the mayor and neglected to mention the proposed increase for councillors.

 

Bill Metcalfe is a freelance journalist who covers Nelson city hall for The Nelson Daily. To receive a regular twice-monthly email with links to his most recent city hall stories, send a request notification to billmet4@gmail.com.

Categories: GeneralPolitics

Other News Stories

Opinion