In a 5-4 vote, the regional district board sided with a compensation consultant’s recommendations to increase pay for municipal and area directors but to decrease the annual wage of the board chair.
Maurice Lamb reviewed pay, benefits and expenses of board members by comparing other districts and municipalities in B.C. He concluded remuneration levels should be bumped to equal those of the Central Kootenay, where directors are highest paid among those studied.
As of Jan. 1, 2015, municipal directors will receive $12,072, electoral directors $31,128 and the board chair $29,604. At present, these positions pay $10,377, $20,709 and $33,161 respectively.
At the last committee of the whole meeting, directors considered the recommended bumps a little on the high side. Some members changed their tune on Tuesday.
Area B director Jim Gillis said Lamb’s recommendations warranted further consideration. As opposed to passing a self-serving resolution, he said pay hikes will benefit the new board members who come out on top in the next municipal election.
“It doesn’t involve us,” Gillis said.
Courtenay director Manno Theos feels people could stomach the amounts discussed at committee of the whole, where he thought a compromise was reached whereby municipal directors would receive a second-year amount of $11,000.
“Now we’re pumping it up,” Theos said. “I think people are going to have an issue with that.”
Fellow Courtenay director Starr Winchester also favoured the $11,000 second-year rate, which Comox director Tom Grant had recommended. She cannot accept a 20-per-cent increase for municipal directors.
Cumberland director Gwyn Sproule is not comfortable voting for a raise of this magnitude for electoral area directors.
While the public might not like the idea of voting yourself a raise, Courtenay director Jon Ambler said the actual numbers represent tiny amounts of money.
“It’s a perception issue. If you think $600 will fill my pockets, it won’t,” Ambler said, referring to the recommended one-time adjustment of $11,000 minus the present municipal director rate of $10,377.
He compared remuneration to income tax — just because something is unpopular doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Ambler suggests diversifying, as opposed to underpaying politicians, will attract younger people to the board.
“I think it’s time to step up,” said Area A director Edwin Grieve, who temporarily relinquished his position as board chair to freely discuss the sensitive issue of remuneration.
As it stands, annual pay for the board is roughly .022 per cent of the $56,538,459 district’s annual budget, Grieve noted.
Ambler, Gillis, Grieve, Comox director Patti Fletcher and Area A director Bruce Jolliffe voted in favour of a remuneration bylaw to implement the changed amounts. Grant, Winchester, Theos and Sproule were opposed.
The last remuneration review was conducted in 2006 before the Comox Strathcona Regional District was dissolved.
The board voted in favour of conducting surveys with comparable municipal, regional district and other organizations every six years.