Colwood council is considering nearly doubling the mayor’s and councillors’ pay, following a recommendation from an independent citizen committee.
Council voted 5-2 on the proposal at a committee-of-the-whole meeting on Aug. 22.
The pay increases won’t affect current council members’ remuneration but will come into effect after the Oct. 15 municipal election.
A community-based committee reviewed council compensation throughout the spring and summer and recommended the change.
Upon implementing the pay adjustments, the mayor would receive $61,054.42 per year, an increase from $32,992.14, tied to a pay rate of $3.22 per resident. A councillor’s salary would increase to $30,527.21, up from $16,496.07. This is set at 50 per cent of the mayor’s salary.
The pay rate would be reviewed annually and adjusted for population changes and the Greater Victoria consumer price index.
According to a staff report, the four-person committee reviewed council remuneration since incorporation, compared Colwood’s 2021 remuneration to those of other local municipalities and cities of similar size elsewhere in the province, as well as other documents, including the Union of B.C.’s Municipalities’ Council and Board Remuneration Guide.
By raising council pay in line with the city’s population, the committee agreed to bring Colwood’s remuneration on par with other municipalities.
Several councillors voiced concerns about the recommendation.
Coun. Cynthia Day said she could not support the recommendation since it ties pay to the city’s population, creating a pro-development bias on council. Coun. Doug Kobayashi questioned how UBCM’s best practices for reviewing council remuneration could have led to such a significant increase.
Coun. Michael Baxter defended the pay increase, arguing that the recommendation of an independent committee should not be second-guessed by council, but made a motion to adopt the proposal with an alternative option, spreading the increase over the next four years.
Mayor Rob Martin proposed an amendment to Baxter’s motion to have the increase take effect Jan. 1, 2023, as staff and the independent committee recommended, which passed with Baxter, Day, and Kobayashi opposed.
Martin also argued the increase was needed to encourage a more diverse slate of candidates for municipal elections.
The recommendation was adopted by the committee-of-the-whole, with Day and Kobayashi opposed, and will now head to council for further discussion and a vote on whether to formally adopt the pay increase.
Grumpy Tax Payer$ of Greater Victoria has criticized council for its potential pay increase. In a challenge to council, vice-chair Stan Bartlett questioned if any other organization in the province would consider a nearly 100 per cent pay increase, especially so close to the fall election.
“A huge wage increase just before an election, in the middle of the summer during holidays when there’s fewer media and public scrutiny, would be unfortunate,” said Bartlett.