Qualicum Beach council has debated how much it would cost the town to add two more members.
With the town reining in expenditures to keep taxes from escalating, Mayor Brian Wiese broached the subject at the Committee of the Whole meeting on March 9. Wiese said if council approves the bylaw to increase council size by two (to seven, including the mayor), it could add another $100,000 to the town’s budget.
“I see it as a one per cent tax increase,” said Wiese.
Coun. Teunis Westbroek disagreed with Wiese’s view of the overall cost. He supported dividing the current overall stipend of council. Wiese is not in favour of reducing the pay scale of council. Each member is paid more than $32,000.
“Councillors earn their money,” said Wiese. “And to see them go down to $24,000 for what they do, I just can’t do that either.”
Coun. Anne Skipsey said there’s two issues involved that needs to be settled.
“One is increasing council’s size and whether that’s best for the governance of our community,” Skipsey said. “And the second is remuneration.”
At the last council meeting, Skipsey suggested an independent review be conducted to determine how a larger council should be paid. She said this should be decided before the next council is voted in.
Coun. Robert Filmer also is against reducing the stipend of council members should they add two more. He said, when council decided to increase their stipend, the goal was to give a member of council a living wage.
“That was the point of it,” said Filmer. “And now you want to move backwards. I find that mind-boggling.”
Filmer said he supported first and second reading of the bylaw to increase council size, on the condition that the stipend for a member of council does not change.
“If we are going to change the stipend for members of council and put it back to where it was, I will not support third reading,” said Filmer. “That is where I stand on that.”
Filmer also pointed out the community has expressed a strong desire to have younger people on council.
“If you’re going to pay them less than minimum wage to do this job, you will not get younger people,” said Filmer. “You will not get working people. And that’s not fair. That’s not fair to the members of the community and that’s not fair to the community as a whole. I think many community across the country and province have benefited this past for years for having young people on council. And this will move you in the wrong direction.”
Westbroek said he favours the idea of engaging an independent consultant to come up with a report on what stipend is fair and compare it to other jurisdictions. He suggested they defer the issue of council size and cost to the next budget meeting.
One resident, Lance Nater, said council is dealing with the issue in a backwards fashion.
“What really should be discussed is how can the town be best governed,” said Nater. “To suggest that it works very well with five, why change to seven? We can just look at experience of the past four years. I think when we communicate this change to the public, we should communicate in terms of governance and not in terms of dollars and cents.”
Wiese said he believes a referendum is still the best way to move forward.