White Rock city staff urge council pay bumps

White Rock's elected officials differ on proposed changes to their remuneration

White Rock staff say a review of politicians’ salaries has determined the city’s elected officials are not adequately paid compared to their peers in similar-sized municipalities.

And while they’re proposing a pay boost to take effect as soon as council signs off – including a 20 per cent jump in the mayor’s salary alone – opinions are mixed as to whether the amount of the increase is appropriate and just when it should kick in, if at all.

For Coun. Helen Fathers, the main issue is the percentage difference between the mayor’s and councillors’ pay – an issue that is not specifically addressed by changes staff proposed in an Oct. 7 report to the governance and legislation committee.

Coun. Al Campbell agreed the matter is also about percentages, as well as a recognition that the job entails significantly more work than it has in the past.

“We don’t have a big population, but we have a lot going on,” he said.

At the same time, it’s more about the inequity between the two rates than the actual pay received, he said.

“The dollar value means nothing to me, it’s the percentages,” Campbell said. “It really shouldn’t be about the pay package.”

Council members sitting as the governance and legislation committee voted unanimously in March to have staff review their remuneration and how it is calculated.

The current formula – determined in 2007 – sets councillor wages at “40 per cent of the estimated average White Rock earnings for the current year,” and the mayor’s pay at 90 per cent of the average wage.

After comparing the rates to those in Pitt Meadows, Port Moody and the City of Langley, staff recommend the mayor’s pay be increased to $72,240 (from $59,810) and councillors’ pay to $27,210 (from $26,580) – the average of elected officials in those cities.

While Mayor Wayne Baldwin said he was “a little bit surprised” by the jump proposed for his position, he doesn’t have any qualms.

“I hadn’t realized how far that we’d gotten away from what the norm for other municipalities was,” he said, noting the formula used in White Rock is unique and no longer valid, due to changes to census reporting.

Regardless, he does not agree that councillors should be getting two-thirds of what the mayor does. He described the notion as “way out of line with anybody.”

Most municipalities determine their politicians’ pay by comparison and changes to the Consumer Price Index, he said.

He said the bigger question with any such increase is the timing of its implementation.

“It’s a tough position to be in,” Baldwin said. “On the other hand, if you don’t deal with it, it leaves a bigger bomb for the next council.”

Fathers said the current councillor pay doesn’t justify what the job entails, and could influence the decision of future council hopefuls come election time.

“I just don’t think that 40 per cent… is really justifying really what a councillor does,” she said. “How are we ever going to attract different types of people into being a councillor, because really, you have to be in a position that you can afford to be a councillor?”

Coun. Grant Meyer maintained he would not support any increase to council pay, noting those who seek election know at the time what kind of compensation is offered.

“Some weeks it is a lot of hours of work, but you know that going in, and if you don’t like it, you don’t run in three years’ time.”