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Comox Valley Regional District board rejects dramatic pay increases

Regional district directors are not on board with a compensation consultant's recommended pay hikes, which they consider too steep considering today's economic climate.

The CVRD retained Maurice Lamb to review pay, benefits and expenses of the board chair, municipal reps and electoral area directors. The last review was conducted in 2006 before the Comox Strathcona Regional District was dissolved.

Upon comparing districts and municipalities in B.C. with comparable job duties, Lamb concluded that remuneration levels should be increased to equal those of the Central Kootenay, where directors are highest paid among those studied.

Directors took exception to the part of Lamb's report that suggests electoral directors spend 20 to 30 hours per week on board business while municipal directors invest three to 10 hours per week.

Starr Winchester said she spends more time at district meetings than she does at Courtenay council. That said, she defends area directors who are the lone contact for their constituents.

"I wouldn't want that job for all the tea in China," she said Tuesday at a CVRD committee of the whole meeting.

Comox director Tom Grant feels it is "ridiculous" to suggest first-year directors such as himself spend a handful of hours each week tending to district matters. While a new hire is not expected to know as much as the boss, Grant said first-year directors are expected to know as much as every board member.

Grant feels Lamb's two-step plan with remuneration rates at 75 per cent for the first year is unfair.

Lamb recommends municipal directors receive $9,054, electoral directors $23,346 and the board chair $22,203. These rates would be bumped to 100 per cent for second or additional years of office, paying $12,072, $31,128 and $29,604 respectively.

"It's a fairly hefty hike I'm recommending," Lamb said.

Noting "extreme inequality" in pay rates between districts he studied, Lamb feels the "quasi-volunteer positions" of district directors are underpaid.

"Community responsibilities are increasing. To meet long-terms goals, you need to pay people right."

Directors, however, feel a steep increase from first to second year would not sit well with the public.

"I think one sudden jump would make the public cringe," Courtenay director Manno Theos said.

Area B director Jim Gillis, who agreed the "optics are bad," used the apple-orange analogy to compare municipal and electoral directors.

The board favoured a motion from Cumberland director Gwyn Sproule to remove Step 1, opting instead for one rate.

As of 2011 before 2012 consumer price index (CPI) adjustments, municipal directors receive $10,377. The board favoured a motion from Grant to amend the recommended second-year amount from $12,072 to $11,000.

Area directors receive $20,709 and board chair Edwin Grieve receives $33,161. The board will receive adjustments in 2013 and 2014 based on the B.C. Consumer Price Index.

For the new board starting January 2015, remuneration will be $11,000 for municipal directors, $25,000 for area directors and $29,604 for the board chair.

These figures are based on bylaw and board adoption.

reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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