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Strathcona Regional District board includes per-meeting hike in remuneration raise

CAO will also put together a report to see how other regions handle same-day meeting pay
Charlie Cornfield wants the SRD to look at same-day meeting pay. File photo/Campbell River Mirror

Regional district directors have approved a bylaw to increase their remuneration.

At the Strathcona Regional District board meeting on April 11, a two-thirds majority of the board supported the plan for the hike, which includes a boost to the rate they receive for meetings they attend. This includes not only the regular board meeting, which typically happens once or twice a month, but also committee meetings. The exception for extra pay for the Municipal Services Committee meetings when they occur on board meeting day.

Charlie Cornfield, one of the Campbell River directors, pointed out the Municipal Services Committee chose not to take extra meeting pay, but Area A Director Gerald Whalley responded that this had been the choice of that committee but that it should not decide for the Electoral Areas Services Committee.

“We don’t really appreciate the municipalities organizing our budget for us,” he said.

The per meeting pay now goes from $125 up to $160.

Some on the board opposed the per-meeting increase. Claire Moglove, a Campbell River director, had questions about the idea of pay for each meeting, saying attending meetings is part of their job for which they already receive remuneration.

John MacDonald, Sayward’s mayor and SRD representative, agreed.

“We’re well paid, we get a good stipend,” he said.

When it came to adopt the bylaw, the motion needed a two-thirds majority, and it just passed, as only Cornfield, Moglove, MacDonald and Julie Colborne from Zeballos opposed the motion for the pay hike.

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Last month, the board passed resolutions concerning the measures, though they still had to come forward as a bylaw.

A general seven per cent increase is included to offset a loss of a tax benefit for one third of pay for elected officials – a change brought in by the federal government. However, as the SRD staff report said, the change did not take into account the percentage loss for the board chair, and it recommended making an adjustment.

Committee chair remuneration was increased from $200 up to $256 per meeting. The total refers to the total amount of chair pay, including the same per meeting amount hike as directors plus a percentage increase for extra chair’s pay.

One sticking point during discussions was whether to provide pay for multiple meetings on the same day, specifically if there are committee meetings taking place the same day as a board meeting.

Area D Director Brenda Leigh responded that eliminating per meeting pay in these situations could lead to the board splitting meetings over different days, particularly for busier meetings. This, she warned, could result in extra pay and also increase travel time and expenses.

“It’s just not that easy to just be so cut and dried,” she said. “You’re going to start looking at breaking the meetings up into different days, which will end up costing the board more.”

A majority of the board directed chief administrative officer David Leitch to come back with a report on how different jurisdictions handle the issue of same-day meeting pay, with some, like Andy Adams, Campbell River’s mayor and one of its SRD board members, pointing out that meeting duration times can vary widely.

“Let’s take a look and see what other people are doing,” Adams said.

In response, Area C Director Jim Abram said all meetings, even if they end up running short, still require directors to put in time before and sometimes after.

“It doesn’t matter if they’re on the same day,” he added. “It just means you’re more beat at the end of the day.”

Whalley, Leigh, Abram and Area B Director Noba Anderson opposed the motion for the report on same-day meeting pay.