Nelson city council agreed Monday night to have its management staff review the process by which council gives itself pay increases.
The motion was brought forward by Mayor John Dooley. Council’s discussion on the subject lasted 2½ minutes. It passed unanimously with no mention or discussion of the reasons for the change.
There will no change to the increases the previous council gave the current council in August.
Staff will come back to council in a year with a new proposed procedure to be applied by this council near the end of its term in 2022 for future councils.
After the meeting, Dooley told the media that the new process, not yet developed by management staff, will do away with the current system of having an independent indemnity committee of citizens recommending pay levels.
Instead, staff will follow the lead of many other municipalities by researching trends on council remuneration in other places and coming to a recommendation.
Current pay unchanged
Nelson’s current policy states that near the end of each council’s term, a new indemnity committee is appointed consisting of one business person, one representative of the non-profit sector, and a former council member.
The committee’s job is to review comparative rates for other municipalities and similar bodies and look at the workload required of councillors. An interview with current councillors is part of the process.
One factor in this year’s calculations is new federal legislation taking effect in 2019 in which a tax exemption of 30 per cent for municipal council members’ pay will be removed.
Last summer, the indemnity committee did its work and came back to council recommending that councillors’ pay be increased from $17,255 to $20,000 per year. Council added another $5,000 to that, for the current salary of $25,000.
At the same time, the committee recommended the mayor’s salary go from $42,011 to $49,500. Council added another $10,000 for the current mayor salary of $59,500.
These pay rates will not change as a result of this week’s deliberations.
Mayor explains decision
Following the meeting, Dooley criticized the way the previous council handled the committee’s recommendations, not the work of the committee itself, which he praised.
“I thought the committee did a good job. The indemnity they put forward for council was very fair. I thought council jumped the gun a bit by giving the mayor an extra ten grand on top of that, but it is more about the procedure.
“It is unfair to send a committee of people out to the community for three months and basically say thanks, we will take all these little pieces, but we are going to throw all this on top of it.
“I brought it back because I thought it was quite cumbersome. It did not sit well with me the way the whole process went. As an example, the recommendation from the committee gave the mayor an increase and then council put ten grand on top of that. And a selection of other items were sent back to staff for review such as the pension piece, the childcare package and the indemnity for lost wages, and I thought it was important that this be looked at in some manner.”
Asked why, if he thought the committee did a good job and the previous council handled it badly, he wanted to get rid of the committee, Dooley said, “It has been my experience that over the years with this committee, when they come back with recommendations, there have been adjustments made to them by council.”