RDN directors get pay hike starting next year

Review shows board’s remuneration lags behind similar local governments’

  • Dec. 18, 2017 8:48 a.m.

Regional District of Nanaimo directors gave themselves a nice Christmas gift in the form of a pay raise starting in the new year.

An independent consultant has assessed that the Regional District of Nanaimo’s director remuneration is lower than that in comparable regional districts. Kathy Sainas of Sainas Consult Inc, which conducted an idependent compensation review, recommended adjustments to the RDN directors’ wages.

The consultant reviewed six municipalities endorsed by the RDN board — the City of Kelowna, City of Nanaimo, City of Kamloops, City of Prince George, Corporation of Delta and District of North Vancouver. Comparisons were also made to three regional districts — Capital Regional District, Cowichan Valley Regional District and Comox Valley Regional District.

The RDN is the fourth-largest regional district in the province, serving 155,698 residents from seven electoral areas and four municipal governments. The current board of directors is comprised of 19 members, up from 17 prior to November of 2017. It includes 12 directors from four municipal governments, and seven directors from the electoral areas.

The current board’s remuneration was set in 2014 and went up in accordance with the increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The board decided to have an independent consultant conduct a review to ensure equity and to attract more candidates for the next election in the fall of 2018.

Currently, directors are compensated with a base rate of $13,962. Rural area directors receive an additional $11,532 and the board chairman an additional $20,471.

The proposed increase will be applied in two phases. The first increase comes on Jan. 1, 2018, with the base compensation going up to $15,000, with rural directors to receive additional $14,000 and the chairman an additional $38,000. The second phase will be impelemented in November, following the 2018 municipal elections, with both base rate and electoral area compensation scheduled to increase to $17,000, while chairperson remuneration will increase to $48,000.

The board approved the pay raise at its regular meeting on December 12. RDN Chair Bill Veenhof said the current rates won’t work in the long run and that the adjusted remuneration may attract new politicians.

“If they already had a job that they needed to be at, it just wouldn’t work, so you end up with a board of retirees,” said Veenhof. “I’ve got nothing but positive things to say about my board members, but they represent a perspective that doesn’t necessarily fully reflect the community. So I’d really like to see a compensation package that younger people can look at and say, ‘Yeah, I can run and if I get in, I can afford to be a politician,’ and as it is right now, young people cannot do that.”

Qualicum Beach Director and Mayor Teunis Westbroek, Nanaimo Director Jerry Hong and Parksville Director Kirk Oates voted against it.

Westbroek said money should not be the motivation for candidates to serve. It should be the desire to contribute to the community.

“I talked to the mayor of Tofino the other day; the mayor of Tofino is a pretty busy girl. I think her stipend is $25,000. I’m not sure how I can justify all these numbers that are in here,” Westbroek said.

Electoral Area A director Alex McPherson, who represents around 7,500 residents, commented on the amount of work and time required of him to do his job.

“This is as close as I have been to having a full-time job,” said McPherson, who added that he didn’t run for office for the money. “I had no idea that this would be a significant time commitment as it turned out to be. I am now at the end of my second term and if I knew that it was going to take this much time, I probably would say, no I don’t think I’d do it. And that is really unfortunate.”

Under the new remuneration regime, the vice-chairperson will be compensated $175 for every meeting he or she stands in for the chairperson. Committee chairpeople will be compensated $175 for every meeting they moderate and alternate directors will receive $125 for meetings attended.

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