How much should Central Saanich’s elected officials get paid? That’s the question they’re asking themselves at an upcoming council meeting on Mon. Feb. 5.
The issue was scheduled to be discussed in December (and first brought up in July), but was pushed to a later meeting after the Brentwood Bay Management Plan and Woodwynn Farms issues took up considerable meeting time. At the tail end of the Jan. 15 council meeting, elected officials discussed the numbers and what they thought their work was worth. Ultimately, they did not settle on a final figure, which would take effect after the October municipal election for the new mayor and council.
A third-party consultant, Julie Case, was retained by the District to survey similar municipalities on their remuneration policies. Her report noted that Central Saanich paid their mayor and council 89 per cent of the median amount. Case wrote that the median amount, not the average, is “the preferred approach when using compensation data since the median, unlike the average, is not overly affected by extremely low or high data points in the sample.” Ultimately, Case recommended that the District of Central Saanich should consider adjusting salaries up to the median, which would raise the mayor’s pay from $31,077 to $34,800 and councillor pay from $13,653 to $15,300.
As a comparison, Sidney’s mayor and individual councillors get $34,400 and $13,741 a year, respectively, while North Saanich’s mayor and individual councillors get $27,073 and $13,536 a year, respectively. In addition, a new federal rule slated to take effect in 2019 will no longer allow elected municipal officials to declare one-third of their salary as tax-free, which is meant to offset work expenses.
At the Jan. 15 meeting, Coun. Christopher Graham said he enjoyed reading the report and was interested in the comparisons to similar municipalities. He felt Central Saanich was on the more complex side as compared to other municipalities, with urban issues, rural issues and several First Nations communities within its municipal boundaries which are not counted within the census.
Graham proposed raising the mayor’s salary to $50,000 per year and councillors to $25,000 per year. As a comparison, that would place the Central Saanich pay between Salmon Arm (which pays its mayor $53,725), and Esquimalt (which pays its mayor $48,720). Four councillors opposed the motion so it was defeated.
Coun. Niall Paltiel then moved to raise the salary to the median amount, bumping the mayor up to $34,800 and councillors to $15,300, in keeping with the consultant’s recommendation. Coun. Alicia Holman, who participated by phone, was against the motion because she felt the consultant’s report did not adequately detail the benefits packages offered in other municipalities. She noted Central Saanich had benefits, so if those were accounted for, the recommended pay raise might have been different.
Central Saanich offers its mayor and councillors extended health and dental benefits as requested, whereas four of 12 surveyed municipalities also offered their elected officials life insurance and accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) coverage.
She also said compensation should be an election issue, and not done at the council table where a future council could change the plan at will. She also said it was a conflict of interest for those councillors seeking re-election.
Paltiel said the process of council’s voting on their own remuneration has happened in “basically every jurisdiction,” and by hiring a third-party to make a recommendation and following it, the council would avoid a conflict. He added that “frankly, if a new council looked at this remuneration plan and decided they didn’t want to do it, they could.”
Graham acknowledged that “the people around this table aren’t doing it for money, that’s obvious.”
“I know many of us around this table would be actually making more money if they were not on council because they could spend more time applying it to their work,” said Graham.
King concurred with Graham in that he was not doing it for the money. But, he said he would vote against it on principle the way he’s always done. “It doesn’t make me work any harder” to have an increase, he said.
Windsor agreed with Graham that people should be compensated for their time reading agendas and working with the community. “It’s not about myself or the six members of council, it’s about the expectation of service.”
Windsor “genuinely believed” that it was best to set compensation at $41,800 for the mayor and $18,000 for councillors, numbers that represent the 75th percentile of the sample. The 50th percentile, or P50, is the median amount recommended by the consultant. Windsor also wanted to revisit the issue at least once per future council term.
“At the heart of the reason, it’s the complexity of serving this community, no matter who the six members of council are and whoever the mayor is, which again is decided in an election,” said Windsor. “Next time it could be none of us.”
Correction: Central Saanich councillors are currently paid $13,653, not $16,653. Any proposed raise would also take effect after the October 20, 2018 municipal election, which was unclear in the original article.