A citizens’ committee will take a second look at how much Nelson’s mayor and councillors should be paid. Council decided Tuesday to ask the panel for another opinion after receiving a staff report suggesting the mayor should be paid about $44,000 per year, up from $35,500 currently, and each councillor $17,000, compared to $15,300 now.
The committee recommended remuneration for both mayor and council remain unchanged and other perks be slightly reduced, but reached that conclusion with some missing information.
“This is always a difficult decision, because we’re seen as giving ourselves a raise,” said councillor Donna Macdonald, who made the motion to refer the matter back to the committee. “That’s why council set up a process to create a more independent review. Unfortunately, this round there was quite a bit of confusion about numbers and what was included.”
Presently the total compensation paid to the mayor and six councillors is about $146,000 per year. The committee’s original recommendation would have reduced that to $140,000, while the staff proposal would increase it to $148,000, to bring them up to the median amounts paid in eight other municipalities used for comparison.
Both the committee and city staff proposed reducing a technology allowance that currently pays the mayor about $2,200 per year and councillors $1,100 to a one-time payment of $1,500 during the first year of office and an iPad for council business.
Macdonald said council may ultimately adopt the staff recommendation, but she felt they owed the committee the courtesy of another crack at the issue. Councillor Bob Adams disagreed: “I don’t think the people on the committee are going to get upset.”
Councillor Paula Kiss, however, argued that the staff recommendation was “substantially different” than what the committee came up with. She said council candidates are “predominantly retirees” because of how difficult it is to hold down other employment at the same time. In her term on council, Kiss said she has always had another job, and if there was no compensation for lost wages, she wouldn’t be able to attend certain conferences.
“It dissuades people with children from running. If we want a proper cross-section of the community, we need people with children and [other] jobs,” she said, adding that she hoped the citizens’ committee could look at what provisions exist in other places for childcare and working people.
When the issue first came before council last month, Adams and councillor Robin Cherbo raised concerns about changes to the technology allowance, but both prepared to adopt the revised compensation package this week without referring it back to the committee.
“I think it’s fair and in line with other cities and councils,” Cherbo said. After the meeting, he explained that although the technology allowance still stands to be reduced, he is content that their overall compensation would remain about the same.
The other municipalities used for comparison were Esquimalt, Squamish, North Cowichan, Salmon Arm, Dawson Creek, Courtenay, Port Alberni, and Williams Lake,where mayors’ wages range from $37,000 to $65,000 and councillors are paid $15,000 to $28,000 each.
Any changes would take effect January 1, after a new council has been elected and sworn in.