Town councillors in Qualicum Beach are poised to get a raise of about 50 per cent.
On Feb. 4, council gave preliminary approval to raising their current salaries (on the books as $19,625 a year in 2012 plus annual increases based on the Consumer Price Index) of roughly $22,000 to $34,500. At the same time, the mayor’s salary would jump from $37,500 to $46,000 annually.
Coun. Robert Filmer described the proposal as “raising (pay) from a pittance to a slightly larger pittance.”
Coun. Adam Walker the only council member opposed, saying that the proposed council pay was appropriate, but the proposed pay for the mayor was actually still too low. He also said he felt the amendment should apply to the following term of council, and not this one and that the public should have more opportunity to comment on the proposed amendment.
He said the job has ended up taking a lot more time than he had previously thought. He said the idea that council pay should complement pay from an unrelated part-time job is unrealistic.
“At the rate we’re at now, I still have to work full-time.”
He added that, for those who are retired or no longer have to work, current councillor pay is adequate, but if voters want younger councillors, they need to be supported with the appropriate pay.
At the Feb. 4 meeting, town CAO Daniel Sailland. laid out some stats and comparisons with regards to the proposed increases. He noted that the federal government removed a one-third tax free policy for elected officials, meaning that council is currently taking home less pay than it otherwise would.
Using the mayor’s pay as an example, Sailland said the proposed increase is $8,500 more or a 22.6 per cent increase. However, accounting for the tax change, it’s about a 14 per cent change.
Sailland went on to point out that an entry-level municipal employee costs the town $75,000 including the cost of benefits.
Coun. Scott Harrison pointed out the baseline pay of provincial and federal elected officials, placing baseline MP pay at about $167,000, and MLAs at just more than $100,000.
“Obviously we shouldn’t get anywhere near that level, that’s fair, but when you look at what people are actually making in the contemporary economy, I don’t think something in the mid-thirties is entirely unreasonable, respectfully,” said Harrison.
Councillor Teunis Westbroek said he was prepared to take some responsibility for the pay increase not having been passed during the previous term of council, saying that, as it drew closer to elections, he felt the issue would become too political.
Westbroek said a change to council remuneration was long overdue, as the bylaw hadn’t been looked at since 2011. He said that, since then, the jobs of both mayor and councillor have become far more complex and time-consuming.
He added that, for a community of Qualicum Beach’s size, there should be six councillors instead of four, but noted that the community has twice voted against becoming a city and increasing the number of councillors.
Westbroek said he came up with the proposed pay increase numbers in part based on the Regional District of Nanaimo Electoral Area Director’s pay increase. Rural directors receive $34,000 in pay, while the chair receives $65,000.
In contrast, Parksville’s mayor and council receive $33,440 and $13,890, respectively, with increases tied to the Consumer Price Index. There are six councillors in Parksville.
Council will be able to vote to adopt the amended bylaw on Feb. 25.