During a regular meeting last week, Burns Lake council approved an increase to their own remuneration by 1.5 per cent.
As of Jan. 1, 2017, the annual remuneration for the position of mayor for the duties of office will increase from $17,500 to $17,762. The annual remuneration for the position of councillor for duties of office will see an increase from $8250 to $8373.
The financial implication of this change will be an additional cost of approximately $750 in the village’s 2017 budget.
“I think it’s important to increase the wages of council, including the mayor, in representation to the same level of staff increases,” said councillor John Illes last week.
Burns Lake’s 2017 budget included a 1.5 per cent increase to all staff wages – union and non-union. Although union staff are entitled to a 1.5 per cent increase as per their union agreement, non-union staff are not. The 1.5 per cent wage increase to union staff will cost the village approximately $12,500 per year while the 1.5 per cent wage increase to non-union staff will cost the municipality approximately $10,000 per year.
The staff wage rise over the years has been justified as bringing Burns Lake wages in line with other B.C. communities of similar size and population.
Burns Lake Mayor Chris Beach said the reasoning behind council’s remuneration increase was that “a smaller increase along with the rest of the municipal workforce would be more acceptable and more affordable than periodic larger raises every several years as has been the case in the past.”
In 2012, council proposed an incremental increase to their remuneration over a three-year period. Although that proposed incremental increase was not approved, in 2015 council decided to increase their remuneration to what was originally proposed in 2012. This decision increased the mayor’s annual remuneration from $15,000 to $17,500 and councillors’ remuneration from $7500 to $8250.
The 2015 increase to council’s remuneration was recommended by an independent review committee in 2011. The financial implication of this change was an additional cost of $5500 in the village’s 2015 budget.
Councillor to donate his increase to the legion
Although Burns Lake councillor Michael Riis-Christianson supported the motion to increase council’s remuneration, he said he plans to donate his remuneration increase ($123) to a local organization.
“I supported the motion because it has been a number of years since council’s remuneration has seen a cost-of-living increase, but personally, having been on the job only four months, I don’t feel I need the additional 1.5 per cent,” he said. “I plan to donate mine to charity.”
Riis-Christianson has chosen to donate his 1.5 per cent increase to the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 50, which approached council earlier this year asking for a tax exemption. Council later decided to include the legion’s property to the list of properties eligible for consideration of tax exemption in 2018.
“I was disappointed that we weren’t able to help the legion this year, because the organization and its members do a lot of good in the community,” said Riis-Christianson.
“I would encourage members of council – including the mayor – to do likewise,” he added.