Regional District of Central Kootenay directors and their alternates paid themselves a combined $803,000 in stipends and expenses in 2012, according to annual financial statements released last week. That’s up from $773,000 in 2011.
“It seems like a lot of money for 20 directors, but when you look at the overall operation of a $60 million a year business, it’s not very much,” said chair John Kettle, himself the top earner at $69,000 plus $19,000 in expenses.
The 11 rural directors each made $31,836 while the nine municipal directors each received $12,348 on top of the salary they earned from sitting on their respective councils.
Directors can make additional money for attending board meetings and chairing various committees. They can also be reimbursed for costs incurred while on the road for regional district business, including accommodation, mileage at 57 cents per kilometre, and meals to a maximum of $75 per day, although they don’t always claim their full entitlements.
As chair, Kettle made an additional $30,288 on top of his director’s pay while vice-chair Hillary Elliott took home an extra $2,640.
Salaries are expected to cover the cost of a home office and travel within sometimes-sprawling constituencies. Rates are adjusted annually based on the consumer price index.
Although the chair’s salary ranks somewhere in the middle compared to other regional districts, basic stipends for rural directors are among the most generous in the province. In neighbouring Kootenay Boundary, they receive about $19,000 per year, in the Cariboo $22,000, and at the low end, in Alberni-Clayoquot, $7,500. Central Kootenay’s municipal compensation also ranks amongst the highest in BC, although at least two regional districts, Cowichan Valley and Thompson-Nicola, pay their directors more.
As far as expenses, the most frugal director last year, not including alternates, was rural Castlegar’s Gord Zaitsoff who billed for $2,712. Among municipal directors Castlegar’s Lawrence Chernoff had $3,709 in expense claims and when combined with salary, was the lowest-paid board member at $18,396.
“The directors I know work hard for their money,” Kettle told 103.5 The Bridge. “Municipal directors have an advantage in that they have mayors and councils to work with. Rural directors are mayors and councils of their own areas. We work out of our trucks and houses.”
Kettle added he’d never had a problem accepting his paycheque, and doesn’t think others should either: “You don’t want people to suffer financially by taking this job. This isn’t a volunteer job. It’s full-time for most of us.”
On the staff side the financial statement showed 17 people made $75,000 or more in 2012, and five earned $100,000 or more, topped by now-retired chief administrator Jim Gustafson at $177,000, collectively accounting for $1.6 million out of a total payroll of almost $9 million.
The previous year, 15 people made over $75,000, totalling $1.4 million out of $8.4 million paid to all employees combined.
Kettle wasn’t as quick to defend those numbers: “I think it’s reasonable. Do I think it’s totally acceptable? I’m not sure. We’re in the norm of workers at that level, but that norm may not be the standard we all look at when it comes to our daily paycheques.”