In the end, Central Saanich elected officials voted for a moderate salary increase for the next council, but not everyone at the table was happy about it. Mayor Ryan Windsor and Coun. Christopher Graham felt that was not enough in light of new tax rules that might see them take home less money than they do now.
Last year, an independent consultant, Julie Case, was hired to examine remuneration practices across similar municipalities. She found that Central Saanich’s politicians were paid 89 per cent of the median, or middle, figure. Case recommended that the District adjust 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 it represents the 50th percentile of the surveyed municipalities, it was called P50 throughout the discussion. That option ultimately won the day.
Windsor and Graham preferred a higher option, referred to as P75 as it represented the 75th percentile of surveyed municipalities. That would put the mayor’s pay at $41,800 and individual councillors at $18,000.
“I don’t think council should be voting on council salaries at all,” said Graham. “Unfortunately, there’s no legal mechanism for council to get around this unless we don’t allow council salaries to go up at all, which is an option.”
Graham said he would prefer it if the province set some guidelines, like a province-wide remuneration formula on a per capita basis, but that would require lobbying. King said he would be supportive of some of those proposals, saying they were doable, “but they’re choices.”
King reiterated that he would be voting in opposition. At the previous meeting, King said he did not work as a councillor for the money, and a pay raise would not make him work any harder. Coun. Alicia Holman also reiterated her view that it should be discussed during the election campaign rather than voted on at the council table. She also wanted more details from staff on the benefits offered to elected officials in other municipalities and whether that would change the comparisons originally presented by the consultant.
The mayor noted that the topic of remuneration was “uncomfortable,” which is why the CRD chose not to adjust remuneration for 20 years while compensation in inflation-adjusted dollars “declined and declined and declined.” He said it was a convention, not a rule, for council to examine salaries at the end of each term, and adjust them as necessary for the incoming council following a municipal election. He said he would not be against lobbying for a province-wide formula, but ultimately felt an increase was justified as elected officials put in significant time for council business. In a follow-up interview, Windsor said he did not track his hours, but did record 150-170 regularly scheduled meetings in a year, each with long agendas that require reading.
“I don’t take a punch card. I don’t think many people do,” he said.
Four councillors were opposed, so it was defeated. The table then considered the lower option.
Coun. Niall Paltiel agreed with the mayor’s point that it was not really a salary.
“I don’t think anyone could necessarily feed themselves on this proposed change alone,” he said. However, to increase representation from different sects of the community who are not represented in proportion to population (citing women as one example), Paltiel said it was important to have sufficient compensation for them to want to stand for election.
A Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) 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. Windsor asked chief financial officer Paul Murray if, under the proposed CRA change, officials could potentially make less money than they do now, even with the P50 raise. Murray replied that it was a possibility, but it would depend on each person’s tax situation. At P75, he said the situation would be reversed (an actual increase was more likely).
Ultimately, the P50 option prevailed.
“Congratulations. We’ve just given ourselves a pay cut. Well done, folks,” said Windsor.
The council then moved on to other business.
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