A citizens' committee is recommending Nelson's mayor should receive $2

UPDATED: Nelson council gets modest raise

Nelson’s mayor will be paid $2,000 more per year and councillors another $1,000 each starting in 2015.

Nelson’s mayor will be paid $2,000 more per year and councillors another $1,000 each starting in 2015, in line with a citizens’ committee’s recommendations.

The group was asked to take a second look at the issue after receiving some additional information about the amount similar-sized cities pay their elected officials.

Currently Nelson’s mayor makes about $35,500 annually and councillors about $15,300 each. Combined with other perks, the total cost of remuneration is about $146,000 per year.

When the committee originally met in June, it concluded the present stipends were adequate, although it suggested a change to a technology and clothing allowance that presently pays the mayor about $2,200 per year and councillors about $1,100 each. They wanted that reduced to $1,500 in the first year plus an iPad. Their overall proposal would have reduced the pay total to $140,000 per year.

City staff, however, recommended an increase to $44,200 for the mayor and $17,000 for councillors based on the median figure of the comparison group, which included Esquimalt, Dawson Creek, Port Alberni, and five other places in BC, where mayors’ wages range from $37,500 to $65,000 and councillors are paid $15,000 to $28,000 each. They agreed with the committee’s recommendation on the technology allowance. That would have brought the total annual cost to about $148,000.

Both staff and the committee recommended future pay increases be tied to the average of the BC consumer price index and two per cent, rather than just the CPI.

The committee met again September 26 to review the new information relative to other comparable cities, and according to their minutes discussed the differences between the municipalities including location, population, number of employees, revenues, expenditures, and overall budgets, as well as the current economic climate and responsibilities of mayor and council.

They concluded the position of councillor is equivalent to about one-third of a full time position and the mayor two-thirds of full-time. They also noted the mayor receives an additional $2,400 for chairing the police board, and that council’s regional district representative (who in the past term was also the mayor) receives additional compensation.

After reviewing the new information, the committee felt the changes it initially recommended were reasonable, with one exception: they hadn’t intended to reduce the overall remuneration package by cutting the technology allowance to a first-year payment only.

So the committee’s revised recommendation is that the new salary be the equivalent of the current one plus the amount of the present technology allowance — which comes to $37,500 for the mayor and $16,300 for councillors — plus another $1,500 in the first year and the iPad.

They also suggested a change to a provision covering loss of wages while traveling on city business to include self-employed people. All other benefits covering per diems, health and dental benefits and insurance would remain unchanged.

Council, which twice delayed a decision, unanimously adopted the committee’s recommendations Monday night.

“I think we’ve ended up in a good place,” said longtime councillor Donna Macdonald. “Having been around when we got paid really small peanuts, I think our remuneration at present is quite fair.” She noted that in addition to their stipends, council has a “valuable” benefits package.

Councillor Robin Cherbo supported the new wage scale but said he thought the mayor was underpaid compared to other communities, and wondered if the Union of Municipalities could develop a formula for municipal compensation, factoring in community size and responsibilities.

“I’m not sure how it would work, but we need a formula so everybody is paid equitably,” he said. “Right now it’s all over the map.”

The changes take effect January 1, after a new council is elected and sworn in, and will result in increased costs of about $9,900 next year, followed by a $350 annual reduction in subsequent years.

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