Today’s Poll

Council votes itself a wage increase for the next term of office

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
August 17th, 2018

The mayor and city council will receive a 30 per cent and a 16 percent rise in salary respectively in the next term after the outgoing council approved the wage hike Monday.

In the wake of an independent indemnity review committee recommendation, the current version of city council — which could change after the next municipal election in October — voted during its regular meeting to support the findings: that city councilors and the mayor were not being paid enough.

It was felt a market adjustment of $2,426 should be made to the mayor’s remuneration, while a $666 adjustment be recommended for council members.

This means the city would be paying a councilor an additional 15.9 per cent — from $17,255 to the new $20,000 — while the mayor’s salary jumps from $42,011 to $59,500, an increase of almost 30 per cent.

The increase was driven by a federal government directive in the last budget to dissolve the tax exempt portion of a municipal politician’s salary, intending to not negatively impact the mayor and council positions.

“(T)he current annual remuneration should be adjusted to compensate for the loss that will be realized with the additional taxation,” read a city staff report to council.

In the past municipal officers had one third of their remuneration deemed tax exempt. But with the elimination of the benefit effective January 2019, based on 2018 remuneration rates this would result in approximately $5,036 additional tax for the mayor each year and $2,079 additional tax for councilors.

The scope of the work and the time put in by city council also contributed to the sentiment that the wage paid to the mayor and council was low.

“Factoring in the number of meetings they are required to attend and the consideration that needs to be given for the time spent meeting with residents during both municipal and non-municipal events,” read the report.

“This in addition to the diverse nature of the work in Nelson not experienced by other municipalities, such as Nelson Hydro and the Nelson Police Department.”

Other benefits increased

The wage wasn’t the only increase for council.

“Given the constant change and demands for mayor and council to be accessible and the need to maintain connectivity via phone and internet, the committee determined it was necessary to increase the one-time technology allowance to $2,000 in the first year, in order to maintain proper electronic devices to deal with council business,” read the city staff report.

With respect to loss of wages to attend to council business it was felt the current benefit of $125 per day did not provide an adequate subsidy for loss of wages at approximately $15.50 per hour.

The committee determined a rate of $175 per day would be more consistent with the average income in Nelson.

There was some consideration for the working class who might choose to run for council. The committee felt more clarity needed to be provided in the policy for those council members who were self-employed around the need to demonstrate a loss of income.

As well, in order to support a mayor and council members with children, it was felt a $150 per month childcare benefit should be introduced for those who could demonstrate they had to pay childcare in order to attend council meetings.

Deeper look at the review

The council indemnity review requires an independent committee appointed by city council to make recommendations on whether the money paid to all members of city council and the mayor is fair and should remain unchanged, or if there should be a raise.

Typically, such a committee is established in the last year of each council’s term while this one was struck in spring 2018.

— City of Nelson

By the numbers

The committee requested several streams of information gathered by city staff in order to conduct the review.

Using the information of 30 provincial municipalities — ranging in population from 1,813 to 59,517 — the review looked at remuneration, how annual increases were determined, mileage rates, per diem for travel and benefits information.

But the biggest determining factor in the latest review was the federal government budget 2017 change— one which eliminated the tax exempt portion of municipal politician’s salary.

Shoddy attendance addressed

In the last session of council attendance of councilors had become a problem.

So much so that the committee received numerous concerns regarding meeting attendance and received information from staff regarding actual attendance by council members.

This question also formed part of the interview process. The committee discussed the possibility of recommending a model like the regional district used — basic stipend plus payment for specified meetings — in order to provide an incentive for attendance. However, the committee decided to suggest that this matter first be handled through orientation and education of council members.

— City of Nelson

Categories: General