A Saanich councillor predicts the de-politicization of remuneration rates after council, meeting as committee of the whole Monday night, voted for changes to the remuneration and expense policy.
The changes included an amendment that would no longer require councillors to vote on future changes to their remuneration rates as a single item each year. They would continue to vote on it through the budget process.
Saanich determines the remuneration of the mayor and councillors on an annual basis, based on the average of the remuneration of council members of municipalities of comparable size such as Kelowna, Kamloops, Abbotsford, North Vancouver, Delta, Langley (Township), and more locally, Victoria and Nanaimo.
While technically not required, councillors had previously voted on increases.
Coun. Colin Plant said this aspect would not change, as councillors would still vote on the provisional budget with the automatic increase. Councillors, he said, are not trying to hide an increase.
“This is not about saying, ‘we are sneaking an increase into our pockets,’” said Plant. “What we are saying is, we have a policy that says we compare ourselves to eight other municipalities, and if we are typically taking the average of those eight municipalities, and then voting on it, why do we annually do this, when we have policy that says, ‘this is what our income is worth.’ It either is or it isn’t.”
Any member of the public can comment on this through the budget process, he said. “I think it de-politicizes it by not having to decide every year on this individual item,” Plant said.
During 2019 budget discussions, council set the remuneration for the office of mayor at $116,492.22 and the office of councillor $46,047.95. These figures represent increases of 13.22 and 11.47 per cent respectively. These increases in turn responded to changes in federal legislation effective Jan. 1 that require members of council to declare their entire remuneration as taxable.
The federal government previously exempted one-third of their remuneration on the assumption that elected officials incur expenses throughout their working year, to the tune of one-third of their pay. By way of background, council approved the increase unanimously. The public also heard at the time that net pay for each member of council would vary from person to person, with some potentially earning less.