Victoria city Coun. Ben Isitt believes there should be some serious reconsideration of council duties following feedback on a proposed salary increase.
A question put forward by Isitt in November as part of the 2020 Draft Budget survey asked the public if it would be in favour of a 55 per cent pay hike for councillors, who haven’t seen a remuneration increase since 2009.
The jump would see councillors going from $43,000 to $70,100, a proposition Isitt said would equate councillors to the median income of a full-time city worker, besides firefighters and police officers.
More than 5,000 people responded with 86 per cent saying they “strongly disagreed” with the idea.
“I welcome receiving this feedback from the public. Public opinion region-wide appears to support limiting Victoria city councillors to part-time remuneration and duties, based on the results of this unscientific questionnaire of self-selected residents,” Isitt said in an emailed statement.
“One way to achieve this outcome, if the informal questionnaire reflects public opinion of City of Victoria elects, is to shift to the model in Saanich of evening meetings rather than daytime meetings so that councillors can engage in regular employment.”
Isitt calculated hours and estimated that most councillors spend between 40-85 hours per week working on council-related duties bringing the 2019 total to 550 hours per councillors so far.
He compares this to the approximately 140 hours worked by Saanich councillors, despite it being a larger municipality.
Paring down council duties, he argued, could bring councillors back to a part-time roll.
“Public access to councillors could also be reviewed, shifting to a lower level of responsiveness to correspondence, meeting requests, telephone calls and media inquiries,” he said.
In a motion coming to council on Thursday, Isitt suggests that the city further analyze the situation and choose one of three options.
The first would leave things as is at a rate of $24 per hour for 35 hours, and accepting that this is “inaccessible to early-to-mid-career professionals” without other sources of income.
The second would keep the current remuneration and reduce duties by switching to evening meetings, reducing council oversight of municipal expenditures, reducing public responsiveness, and and “reducing proactive work by councillors with community stakeholders to address social, environmental and governance issues.”
The last idea is to adjust the salary to meet the current duties and determining an appropriate salary adjustment through a citizen’s task force, external review or a referendum.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said she was happy to hear the feedback, and that she believes a third-party review would be a logical option .
“I think a salary review is overdue as 10 years without reviewing job descriptions and compensations is not good governance,” Helps said. “But I think this work should be done independently and in an orderly way as laid out in our strategic plan.”