Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Council now one vote away from finalizing salary increases and full time Mayor status

Council discussed a proposed amendment towards the City Council
Remuneration bylaw, turning aside his recommendations and adopting the
original bylaw provisions as proposed by the Select Committee of February

Monday's Special Council session also revisited the Findings of the Blue Ribbon select panel on Compensation, in the end rebuffing an effort of Councillor Gurvinder Randhawa to consider the elements of the recommendations as two different segments.

The process began with Council reviewing a report from the City Manager which provided the details for the Salary increases, which will provide Mayor Lee Brain with a salary of 75,000 dollars per year and formally reinstate his status as that of a full time Mayor.

The report also notes that " The Annual remuneration payable to each Councillor shall be 25% of the Mayor's full time status annual remuneration"

Following that review, Council then once again engaged in a lively discussion on the merits of the salary proposals from the Blue Ribbon Select committee, as well as the suggestion from Mr. Randhawa to separate the two salaries from each other.

His main focus on the evening was that while he believed that there is a need for a Full Time Mayor and a full time salary for the position, he also stated that he believed that City Council members should receive the lost tax break revenue that came from the change in Federal tax legislation last year, he did not believe that the Council members should be tied to the 25% provision of the Mayor's salary that the Committee had recommended.

After some extensive conversation as to what City Council can and can't do in relation to how the bylaw was crafted they settled on discussing Mr. Randhawa's salary concerns.

At the call for comments from the mayor, the majority of the Council members returned to the debate of last week and re-introduced many of the same comments to the discussion, including much in the way of praise of the work of the Mayor over the last four years.

Councillor Adey  offered up a suggestion to change the language slightly -- "What if we were to take a different approach and suggest that the amendment would be, and I don't want anyone to take offence to this cause I think everybody is doing a fantastic job. That the amendment be in number three, that the annual remuneration payable to the Mayor be a different number and that the rest of tying the councillors wages by 25%,  the rest of the structure of the bylaw would stand "

To further the discussion, Mr. Adey suggested that the amendment should set the salary at $72,000 observing as to the public input he has received on the issue.

"What I"m suggesting here is my best efforts here to strike a compromise, that allows us to show that we are being sensitive to the opposition point of view, we're acknowledging the point of view of the supporters by still having a raise in there, we're still looking at a raise just a more modest one. The simplicity of it is that it's an easier amendment to deal with in the context of this bylaw ... I'm just trying to find that middle ground  for the various points that are out there"

From that introductory point of view, the remainder of Council members weighed in:

Councillor Niesh -- "The whole reason of putting a whole Blue Ribbon Panel Committee together was to make these recommendations to take us out of the conversation more and I feel that you know here we are, we're going to nickel and dime over three thousand dollars. This was a committee of community members that was put together, they made these recommendations if you want to agree or disagree that's fine, but the whole idea was to take us out of the conversation as much because it is a hard topic to discuss raises"

Councillor Cunningham -- "I spoke on this last meeting and I'll speak to it again, I have no real problem with the raises, I think we put in a lot of time and effort for this community, the Mayor more than anyone else ... it's one of those things that people don't see a lot of the effort that goes into it. As far as talking to different people I guess that depends on your audience. Because I'm out and about a lot and yeah I get some negative comments, here and there, but most of them are fairly positive"

Councillor Mirau who did not speak to the salary debate last week, did offer up some observations on Monday.

"I think we did the prudent thing in striking a citizens committee to study all the data, the evidence and make those comparisons with other communities. So for me, I think we did the right thing and I think every community in British Columbia should adopt the process that we did, as a way to eliminate bias and conflict and setting wages and benefits for Mayor and Council. And I think it would be a dis-service to the members of the committee and to our own staff who spent so much time and effort in making that process and ultimately the recommendation"

Councillor Skelton Morven -- "I would like to agree with what the the Blue Ribbon Committee  presented ... This is beyond us, this is not just us personally voting ourselves in a raise, I know that some of the misconception is that. The Blue Ribbon Committee was assembled so we could take a step back from what is clearly a definition of conflict of interest. For me I look at this in the future, so come the time for the next election, anyone from any walk of life, can have an equal opportunity to represent our community"

Prior to the end of the discussion, Councillor Cunningham inquired as to what kind of financial change the recommendations would deliver.

To clarify the numbers somewhat,  the City's Financial Officer noted that the ballpark difference would be that the increase for each councillor would be $2,220 increase to make up the lost federal tax break, while following up on the 25% proposal in the bylaw from the Salary committee would deliver $3,099 dollars more.

She also noted that the entire proposed increase is only .001 increase to the entire operating budget, which was absorbed through some of the new money that has come in.

Councillor Randhawa expressed one final concern, noting that he was worried that while this years salary increase was covered by additional money coming in to the city, he wondered if in future years Council won't have to increase taxes to account for the new salary structure.

As he did last week Mr. Cunningham's final thoughts framed much of the consensus for Council on the salary debate.

"I think when you look at the overall picture it's not a big deal, like what I've heard from people, and again you put it out on Facebook, come to the meetings, If you don't come to the meeting I assume we're doing everything the way you want it done. Well you know we had two budget meetings and this was included in the second one and people seem to be happy with what we're doing and that, so I think that there may be small splinter groups here and there. but the general picture and general attitude I get is that people are quite happy"

And with  that, the City Council membership turned aside Councillor Randhawa's initiative and instead adopted the original recommendations of the Compensation committee moving it forward towards final adoption.

You can review the full exchange on the salary themes from the City's video archive starting at the thirty one minute mark.

Council will meet once again this week, with a Thursday Special Council Session called for 5PM to give both the Budget and pay increases final approval.

For more background on both the Budget and Salary discussions of Monday, see our Council Timeline feature here.

For more items of note from Council Discussions can be explored from our Council Discussion archive.

To return to the most recent blog posting of the day, click here.

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