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LETTER: Study of Victoria council salaries should include all compensation

Victoria City Hall. (Black Press Media file photo)

While there may be strength in numbers, there may be weaknesses when it comes to trying to justify better council pay.

That’s no more true than in the 20 pages of numbers in “Elected Officials Remuneration Research”, a report generated for Victoria council and tabled March 14.

Eighteen cities were involved in the survey, 11 of which were in B.C. One city did not respond. The authors acknowledge that “not every city answered all our questions” and the follow-up was incomplete.

The compensation numbers used are limited to amounts paid by the cities themselves – a significant limitation – and do not include additional income received from external bodies.

Most cities don’t operate under B.C.’s byzantine regional government model, so national comparisons are not very useful at all.

In the case of Victoria, by virtue of their positions, the mayor and three councillors who sit as CRD directors also earn an extra $22,251, of which $7,517 is an expense allowance. Then there may be top-ups for additional roles such as vice-chair or per diems for showing up.

They report “committee remuneration and other remuneration” as “none at all.” In fact, there may be top-ups for council for sitting on outside bodies and agencies such as the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority or the BC Transit board. Some jurisdictions treat these responsibilities as part of their councillor job.

It’s commendable that the city is basing compensation decisions on a formal and third-party comparative study. But consider, most councils try to base salaries on the median market data, not at the top or the bottom. Using that benchmark, the key takeaway of the study suggests that council pay is adequate.

City councillors earn a base salary of about $52,000 – amounting to about double the hourly living wage in Victoria – for what is considered a part-time job. The mayor is paid about $131,000 for a full-time position. Neither job includes stipends, retainers and per diems for sitting on external entities.

To properly judge the quality of the compensation study findings, all additional earnings need to be included for city council, and the 16 other municipalities across B.C. and Canada.

Apples need to be compared to apples, not kumquats.

Stan Bartlett, vice-chair

Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria