At its Aug. 9 meeting, Nelson City Council decided on a pay increase for the new council that will take effect after the October municipal election.
The mayor will be paid $70,170, a 12.69 per cent increase over the current wage of $62,263.
Councillors will receive a 5.14 per cent increase from the current $26,212 to $27,560.
City management staff arrived at those numbers by determining the median wages of mayors and councillors in nine other municipalities that are similar to Nelson in terms of population, the number of employed staff, their operating and capital budgets, building permit construction values, and the scope of the municipality’s services.
The comparative municipalities were Courtenay, Esquimalt, North Cowichan, Oak Bay, Port Alberni, Salmon Arm, Squamish, Kitimat, and Dawson Creek.
The pay levels for the next Nelson council are the median numbers for all those communities. The median was used, rather than the average, because of the tendency of very high or low numbers to have an outsized effect on the average.
On top of the increase to take effect in October, the salaries for Nelson mayor and council will be increased each year according to increases in the Consumer Price Index plus two per cent, as is the case with most of the other municipalities in the comparison group.
This method of deciding increases in council salaries is new this year. Previously, council used an independent indemnity committee of citizens who recommended pay levels.
In addition to their pay, Nelson’s mayor and councillors will, as in previous years, get a one-time technology allowance of $2,000, travel reimbursements for city business, health and dental coverage, life insurance, up to $150 in dependent care costs where required, and a loss of wage benefit of $175/day for up to 20 days for the mayor and 10 days for councillors if they must lose time at their job to attend to city business.
Commenting on the increases, Councillor Jesse Woodward said he was worried about public perception in a community in which many people made financial sacrifices during the pandemic.
City manager Kevin Cormack pointed out that council saved money in other ways by not traveling during the pandemic, and Councillor Janice Morrison pointed out that in year two of its term during the pandemic, council did not take its annual CPI increase.
Councillor Rik Logtenberg said council held tax increases down to bare minimum during the pandemic. (Increases were two per cent in 2019, zero per cent in 2020, 1.75 per cent in 2021, and four per cent in 2022.)
He also said the increase is warranted because the workload is larger than most people realize.
“Since I have no particular stake in this,” Logtenberg said, “I think for the next council it is only fair that they at least don’t fall behind inflation, so I am for it.”
Morrison said the pay level has to be high enough to attract new people of all ages to run for office. She and Councillor Keith Page spoke in favour of the increases and the process by which they were determined.