After voting three times in support of increasing their pay, Qualicum Beach council has one more vote to go before adopting the increase.
Coun. Teunis Westbroek presented a motion during a committee of the whole meeting on Jan. 30 “that council review an amendment to the Town of Qualicum Beach Council Remuneration and Expenses Bylaw No. 667 at the Feb. 4, 2019 Regular Council meeting to consider an increase and amendment to the annual remuneration of the mayor to $46,000 and for councillors to $34,500.”
That would be an increase from $37,500 for the mayor, said town CAO Daniel Sailland. The town’s current bylaw shows councillors being paid $19,625 a year, plus $2,000 for the deputy mayor, with councillor pay increasing by the same percentage as the Consumer Price Index for B.C. since 2012.
At the Feb. 4 meeting, council passed not one but three readings in support of the pay increase, with Coun. Adam Walker the only council member opposed.
Though Walker said he thought the proposed council pay was appropriate and the proposed pay for the mayor was actually still too low, he said he felt the amendment should apply to the following term of council, and not this one. In opposing the additional readings, he said the public should have more opportunity to comment on the proposed amendment.
While acknowledging that votes for pay increases are often taken quite negatively by the public, council defended the proposed amendment at both the committee of the whole and the subsequent council meeting.
Coun. Robert Filmer described the proposal as “raising (pay) from a pittance to a slightly larger pittance.”
He described how, though he felt he understood what a council position entailed, the job has ended up taking a lot more time than he had previously thought. Explaining his understanding to be that councillor pay should complement pay from an unrelated part-time job, he said, “At the rate we’re at now, I still have to work full-time,” which leaves far less time for councillor duties.
He added that, for those who are retired or no longer have to work, current councillor pay is adequate, but if voters want younger councillors, they need to be supported with the appropriate pay.
At the Feb. 4 meeting, Sailland laid out some stats and comparisons with regards to the proposed increases. He noted that the federal government removed a one-third tax free policy for elected officials, meaning that council is currently taking home less pay than it otherwise would.
Using the mayor’s pay as an example, Sailland said the proposed increase is $8,500 more or a 22.6 per cent increase. However, accounting for the tax change, it’s about a 14 per cent change.
Sailland went on to point out that an entry-level municipal employee costs the town $75,000 including the cost of benefits.
Coun. Scott Harrison pointed out the baseline pay of provincial and federal elected officials, placing baseline MP pay at about $167,000, and MLAs at just more than $100,000.
“Obviously we shouldn’t get anywhere near that level, that’s fair, but when you look at what people are actually making in the contemporary economy, I don’t think something in the mid-thirties is entirely unreasonable, respectfully,” said Harrison.
Westbroek said he was prepared to take some responsibility for the pay increase not having been passed during the previous term of council, saying that, as it drew closer to elections, he felt the issue would become too political.
Westbroek said a change to council remuneration was long overdue, as the bylaw hadn’t been looked at since 2011. He said that, since then, the jobs of both mayor and councillor have become far more complex and time-consuming.
He added that, for a community of Qualicum Beach’s size, there should be six councillors instead of four, but noted that the community has twice voted against becoming a city and increasing the number of councillors.
Westbroek said he came up with the proposed pay increase numbers in part based on the Regional District of Nanaimo Electoral Area Director’s pay increase.
Rural directors receive $34,000 in pay, while the chair receives $65,000.
In contrast, Parksville’s mayor and council receive $33,440 and $13,890, respectively, with increases tied to the Consumer Price Index. There are six councillors in Parksville.
Westbroek moved a first, second and third reading of the amendment at the Feb. 4 meeting, saying in response to Walker’s call that the community have more time to respond, that feedback last year and at the recent committee of the whole meeting had been positive.
While some members of the public who spoke at the committee of the whole meeting were in favour of the amendment, several suggested that council members are taking on more work than they need to, and one said the pay increase just seemed too big.
Council will be able to vote to adopt the amended bylaw on Feb. 25.