Comox is the latest Vancouver Island body to address a lost tax break by voting itself a raise.
In their first council meeting since the October municipal election, Comox councillors voted in favour of a 14 per cent increase in remuneration, but council members were quick to highlight the rationale behind the increase.
In a report from Shelly Russwurm, deputy corporate administrator for the Town, the Comox Council Remuneration and Expense Bylaw recommended the increase, due to an upcoming change to the accounting rules for mayor and councillor.
Russwurm explained the federal income tax act is being revised to eliminate the tax-exempt portion of council remuneration, and the impact of the act would actually see a reduction in council take-home pay.
(Up to Dec. 31, 2018, one-third of a councillor or mayor’s pay was exempt from taxes, i.e. $11,209 for the mayor. As of Jan. 1, 2019, there will no longer be an exemption. The increase in pay is equivalent to the amount of taxes to be paid on the previously exempt portion.)
“If it doesn’t pass, the remuneration would actually decrease,” she added.
Coun. Pat McKenna stated his opposition to the motion, and added the optics and timing of the motion is not appropriate.
Mayor Russ Arnott said the previous council didn’t want to hide behind the motion, and that all councils across Canada are dealing with the change in the act.
Coun. Nicole Minions agreed, but added the optics of dealing with the bylaw during the first meeting of the new council does “create a challenge, but it makes sense.”
The 2018 remuneration annually is $33,628 for mayor and $17,724 per councillor; the bylaw would update the annual salaries to $38,384 for mayor and $20,230 for councillors.
The motion passed with McKenna being the sole opponent.