Victoria City Council reluctantly agreed to a $90,000 budget for an assistant to Mayor Lisa Helps.
In Thursday’s committee of the whole, and following in a late council meeting, the originally-proposed motion put forward by Helps asking for $120,000 was whittled down to $90,000 for the Head of Strategy and Operations role. The salary would be topped an additional 20 per cent for benefits and pension.
Helps, who has not had an assistant in her role as mayor, reasoned that previous mayors Dean Fortin and Alan Lowe both had similar employees who earned on average $80,000, and argued that the qualifications for these individuals were lower than her desired candidate. The people holding the role previously required a bachelor’s degree and three years experience, while Helps is seeking someone with a master’s degree and 10 years experience to act in her stead when she is away, and to assist her in ongoing municipal duties.
In the committee of the whole meeting, council voted to have the salary down to $80,000, a number Helps felt was inadequate enough to forgo the hiring process altogether.
“I don’t need a junior person, I need a senior person,” Helps said. “If council wants to approve a salary of $80,000 it goes to the job description from previous eras. That’s fine, if that’s what council wants to do that’s council’s prerogative, but I won’t hire that person. I don’t need that person.”
Later, at the beginning of council, Coun. Sharmarke Dubow motioned an amendment for $100,000, where Coun. Ben Isitt moved to amend it down to $90,000.
Only 34 per cent of unionized City staff make $80,000 or more. This does not include councillors, who will earn $44,062 in renumeration in 2019, where the mayor will make over $110,156 before expenses.
“I think we need some context on what most people in our community make,” said Coun. Ben Isitt. “I think the assumption that you can only get very good people for very large sums of money is false.”
Isitt also suggested that any one of the councillors could act as deputy mayor in Helps’ absence, so that an elected official could carry on actions and hold more accountability, though the topic did not move further.
Council voted eight-to-one, with Coun. Geoff Young opposed, to the two-year contract of $90,000 plus benefits.
“This would put them on par with the most well-compensated assistants to cabinet ministers,” Isitt said. “I think it’s completely a reasonable amount. “
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