Area directors on the Strathcona Regional District board are in for a big pay raise.
Directors, at the regular board meeting last Thursday, voted to increase four directors’ annual base salaries from $20,699 to $31,128 retroactive to 2012.
The area directors getting the raise are Brenda Leigh (Oyster Bay-Buttle Lake), Jim Abram (Quadra Island), Noba Anderson (Cortes Island) and Gerald Whalley (Kyuquot-Nootka). The raise will come from the electoral area directors’ budget.
But not all directors were on the same page, despite the raise already being endorsed by directors at a previous Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting.
John MacDonald (Sayward) disagreed with the pay raise being retroactive to last year.
“I think the effective date should be January 2013, it should not go back a full year,” he said.
Whalley thought otherwise.
“The money here is already in the budget for 2012 in anticipation that it would be in the budget,” Whalley said. “It was already agreed upon in the COW meeting, I don’t know why this keeps getting dragged up again.”
Directors also approved an increase in pay for municipal directors from $10,372 to $12,072.
However the raise will not go into effect until 2015.
The raise was recommended by an outside consultant who based his suggestions on pay scales at other regional districts.
Director Claire Moglove thought the comparison was unfair.
“I do not believe we as municipal directors need an increase in 2015,” Moglove said. “I thought the comparison to the Comox Valley Regional District was misplaced and was comparing apples to oranges.”
“I think we have to look…to the future and I think we as elected officials have a lot of responsibility and even municipal directors on this board have a lot of responsibility so I would support a moderate increase,” Leigh said.
Director Jude Schooner (Tahsis) said the increase should be dealt with in 2015 while directors Ron Kerr and Walter Jakeway were in favour of the increase.
“We have enough division on this board and I think not voting for the municipal increase makes the gap even wider,” Jakeway said. “This group needs to pull together.”
In the end, the motion to increase municipal directors’ salaries in 2015 passed with MacDonald, Moglove and Schooner opposed.
Directors also approved a pay cut to the board chair, Ted Lewis (Zeballos). Lewis currently receives $33,145 in addition to his regular directors’ pay, but under the new remuneration changes, his pay for the role of chair will be reduced to $19,872.
This is the first time since 2006 that the regional district has reviewed its remuneration policy. The current review has been ongoing for more than a year.
Maurice Lamb of Lamb and Associates was hired to review the remuneration bylaw and had a report in front of the regional district board last month, recommending the board adopt pay rates equal to the Central Kootenay Regional District – the highest in the province.
Directors were hesitant to approve pay changes until they were able to meet with Lamb and receive clear direction.
Leigh said it was inappropriate for board members to decide their own salaries.
“It will get ugly. It will fracture our board,” Leigh said at a board meeting Jan. 24. “I don’t want to set my own pay. I want my pay to be according to what’s fair around the province.”
Leigh also acknowledged that directors were due for a pay raise.
“Remuneration-wise we’re so unappreciated. If my constituents knew what I was making they would be appalled,” Leigh said. “I don’t do it for the money.”
According to the regional district’s 2011 financial statements, directors received the following in remuneration and expenses: Craig Anderson ($49,062), Abram ($32,477), Whalley ($28,348), Noba Anderson ($27,615), Leigh ($27,493), Lewis ($17,528), Moglove ($14,618), Mary Storry ($13,643), MacDonald ($13,618), and Schooner ($719), who did not serve a full year.
Those figures include base remuneration as well as additional earnings board members receive for attending meetings (up to $125 per meeting), and other expenses.