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White Rock councillors seek raise

White Rock politicians have asked staff to review how their pay compares to council members in other, similar-sized municipalities. - File photo
White Rock politicians have asked staff to review how their pay compares to council members in other, similar-sized municipalities.
— image credit: File photo

The policy outlining how pay for White Rock’s civic politicians is determined needs a rethink, council members agree.

And at least one councillor is calling for a formula that boosts the salary, replacing a 2007 policy on remuneration and expenses that sets councillor wages at “40 per cent of the estimated average White Rock earnings for the current year.”

“Forty per cent implies we only do 40 per cent of the work,” Coun. Helen Fathers told Peace Arch News Monday, after discussing Policy 106 at a meeting of the governance and legislation committee.

For 2012 – the latest figures available – it translated to $26,240 for councillors and $59,040 for the mayor, which is based on 90 per cent of the average wage.

“When I tell people what we get and the amount of work that we do, (the reaction is) astonishment,” Fathers said, estimating she puts 40 to 60 hours a week into her role.

She asked her peers their thoughts on increasing the percentage to 60.

Mayor Wayne Baldwin balked at the suggestion.

“I think that’s too high,” he said. “Forty per cent is probably consistent with other municipalities… pretty much par for the course.”

Baldwin suggested the committee ask staff to look into how other similar-sized municipalities pay their councils and compare the figures with White Rock’s to ensure consistency – a move the committee supported unanimously.

Coun. Larry Robinson noted the current formula does not work with White Rock’s demographics.

“Forty per cent of a demographic that’s 30 per cent retired means there’s not going to be much of an incentive to run for council,” Robinson said.

Coun. Louise Hutchinson described the use of average earnings as “a very bad marker,” and said she believes councillors’ pay should be half of what the mayor receives.

The politicians serve approximately 20,000 residents living in the city’s 5.13 square kilometres.

A comparison of 2010 figures with those of Langley City and Port Moody politicians – two communities White Rock staff will be looking at in their review – puts White Rock in the middle in terms of councillor wages, and on the low end for the mayor’s.

Langley City councillors – representing 25,000 people in 10 square kilometres – earned between $28,660 and $32,243 that year; the mayor received $71,649.

In Port Moody – where residents number about 34,000 in 26 sq.km. – the councillors earned $24,108 in 2010; the mayor, $70,246.

White Rock Coun. Grant Meyer did not comment during Monday’s meeting, but later told Peace Arch News that there is “no way” he’d vote for a raise. He said he was stunned when Fathers suggested 60 per cent.

“I thought, my god, that’s a 50 per cent pay raise,” he said.

“It’s a three-year term. You know what the salary is when you run. You’re doing it to serve the community. It is a fair amount of hours, but I think the pay is fair.”

Council’s newest member, Bill Lawrence, told PAN he would support “wherever the numbers indicate” – including if staff determine the current pay is too high.

He agreed with Hutchinson that the average-wage marker is not a good indicator for the calculation, as it is based on census figures and only current every five years. And, he agreed with Fathers that the pay should reflect the workload.

“I think the added time that is spent doing it should be compensated for,” Lawrence said.

Coun. Al Campbell said he too welcomes a review.

Baldwin said that if staff recommend an increase in the wages, that it shouldn’t take effect during the current term.

He agreed that pay raises for civic leaders rarely go over well with residents.

“It is a painful process to go through to have to set your own salary – not one any council that I can recall has ever done very well with,” he said.

“It doesn’t reflect well on us if we get into office and start asking for more money.”

The policy is among dozens being reviewed by staff as part of “good practice,” and to ensure the current council still concurs with them, a report to the committee explains.

While no increase to council pay was suggested in Monday’s report, staff did recommend that three-year expense amounts allotted for the mayor and council to use for “discretional education conferences or education materials” each be boosted by a third; to $6,000 from $4,500 for the mayor, and to $4,000 from $3,000 for the councillors.

A 50 per cent increase in the annual allowance allotted to councillors for attending events on the city’s behalf – to $750 from $500 – is also suggested.

Changes to other policies – human resources, planning and development services, municipal operations and leisure services, and financial – are expected to come forward in future months.

They would have to be approved by council before taking effect.

 

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