The Strathcona Regional District board is planning on a pay raise.
At the March 13 meeting, after a lengthy discussion, the board passed several motions concerning compensation for members. The moves will still have to be ratified through a bylaw.
Much of the discussion centred around the amount of compensation per meeting attended. After an initial proposal of raising the amount from $125 to 180 was rejected, the board discussed a proposed amount of $160. Directors John MacDonald, Claire Moglove and Julie Colborne opposed both the change and the main motion to raise the amount.
“I think $125 is more than ample for meeting pay,” said MacDonald, who sits as mayor of Sayward. “We’re all busy, we all have a lot of work to do, no matter how big your community is.”
Moglove said she preferred a model that pays a general stipend for the position rather than one where directors are paid for each meeting they attend.
“Part of my job description is to attend meetings,” she said. “I’ve never understood why we will get paid separately for meetings.”
Area D Director Brenda Leigh said the SRD directors were $35 below those in the neighbouring Comox Valley Regional District and suggested the $160 as a compromise, though she conceded it was difficult to make comparisons, even within the same regional district, because of differences in responsibilities and the size and populations for different areas.
“It’s very difficult to decide what numbers are right without looking at the duties,” she said, adding, “Any electoral area that is responsible for thousands of people, you’re working hard…. It’s a big job for one person.”’
Responding to the staff report, Mayor Andy Adams, one of the Campbell River directors, felt the SRD was right in the “sweet spot” of where it should be. He reluctantly supported amending the amount to $160 but expressed concerns with trying to make comparisons, especially with other governments such as the Comox Valley.
“That would create the incentive for leap-frogging that would never end,” he said.
Along with this meeting amount, the board voted on a proportionate increase to the pay for committee chairs. This does not include, however, the remuneration for the board chair.
Directors also voted to increase remuneration by 7 per cent to account for the loss of a one-third tax benefit that the federal government has rolled back for elected representatives of local governments.
Speaking to the issue of a pay hike, Area A Director Gerald Whalley said board members were not just making decisions for themselves but for future board members, adding that most people are not independently wealthy or can leave a paying job to take on the duties of government.
“This job should be open to anybody that wants to serve the public, not just a privileged few,” he said.
As well, Area C Director Jim Abram suggested an increase in the per diem amount for meals and incidentals, such as tips, for when board members are away on regional district businesses, such as conferences. He pointed to increases such as fuel costs as the reason and suggested a hike from $75 up to $100.
This motion was defeated, with only Abram and Whalley voting in favour. Following this, there was a proposal for the remuneration to be increased by 5 per cent for directors. While proposed amendments to limit this to electoral area directors and not municipal government representatives as well as to refer the matter to the Electoral Area Services Committee passed, the main motion to increase the amount by the 5 per cent failed, with directors Colborne, Moglove, MacDonald, Adams, Noba Anderson, Colleen Evans, Ron Kerr and Brad Unger opposing.