Victoria councillor refuses CRD wage increase

The Capital Region District Board voted to double their wages next year, but one Victoria councillor says she won't accept the raise.

The Capital Region District Board voted to double their wages next year, but one Victoria councillor says she won’t accept the raise.

Marianne Alto was one of six directors to vote against the recommendation to increase the pay of the CRD’s 24 directors during last week’s board meeting.

“I don’t think that we should be making decisions that reward ourselves,” she said. “When we ran for these positions, everybody sitting at that table on Wednesday ran for a position knowing what the pay would be. But the fact of the matter is, we knew what we were getting into when we put our names forward.”

As of Jan. 1, 2016, directors will now make $17,000 from $8,940. The board chairperson will be paid an additional stipend of $25,000 a year, while the board vice-chairperson, standing committee chairperson and hospital district chairperson will receive additional stipends of between $2,500 and $5,000. Directors who are involved in more than two standing committees will also receive an additional $5,000.

The increases add an extra $250,000 to the regional budget — money that comes from taxpayers pockets.

Alto said after consulting her family, she decided not to take the increase and will ask district staff what her options are.

“I do plan to have that conversation with them to see what are my options here. I don’t want to take this. More fundamentally, I don’t want the taxpayers to pay for this,” she said.

But some councillors believe the pay is justified since directors have not had an increase in roughly 20 years.

“I think directors are entitled to have a modest raise,” said Victoria councillor Ben Isitt, noting that the current compensation structure discriminates against people of lower-income and younger people seeking to hold elected office.

“I’ve had to make huge sacrifices professionally to serve in this role. It’s a big privilege to be here, but I’m not afraid to say that I think a modest increase in compensation is reasonable to help meet increases in the cost of living.”

Some councillors added there has been an increase in workload. but Alto disagreed.

“I don’t think there’s a greater workload that I expected. It’s my opinion that you don’t go into a job without investigating the workload,” she said. “We knew what the workload would be and the amount we were going to be paid. If that wasn’t okay, then we shouldn’t have run.”

The CRD encompasses 13 municipalities, three electoral areas and 11 First Nations.