City council will review and perhaps increase the amount the councillors and mayor are paid. The results would apply to the next council following the municipal election this fall.
The process, set in motion before each municipal election, charges an independent three-person committee with researching and recommending an appropriate wage for council. The committee, appointed by council, must consist of one business person, one representative of the non-profit sector and a former council member.
The committee’s job is to review comparative rates for other municipalities and similar bodies and look at the workload required of councillors. An interview with current councillors is part of the process. The committee will report its recommendations to council for its approval before the end of July.
The current council’s wages were decided in this way by the previous council.
As of January, 2016, just after the last municipal election, the mayor’s compensation was set at $37,500 and councillors’ at $16,500 per year. The mayor gets an additional $2,186 per year for her duties as chair of the Police Board.
These amounts increase by the rate of inflation plus two per cent annually. The pay package also includes health and dental benefits, travel expenses, and a benefit for employed councillors who lose income when travelling on council business.
The committee’s deliberations will include looking into the compensation paid to councillors in cities of a similar size.
“The size of the community is only one piece of it,” said city manager Kevin Cormack at council’s Feb. 5 meeting. “It also includes budget, capital budget, and services provided, because Nelson provides quite a bit more service than most municipalities our size.”
Councillor Janice Morrison said Nelson council’s pay is low considering some of the services provided.
“Although it is a small city, our remuneration is not comparable to some same size communities that have fully paid fire, fully paid police, and a hydro plant.”
Mayor Deb Kozak also pointed out that those additional services also mean a larger than usual number of unions, with which the city negotiates collective agreements.
Morrison said the subject of council pay is a difficult one for a council to discuss.
“Everybody kind of ducks when we talk about getting paid because we are paid from the public purse. I think we need to get that concept on the table.”
She said it can be awkward for a councillor planning to run again because they are potentially voting on their own pay level.
“This is hard to talk about because it is about our self worth.”
Councillor Michael Dailly said council has to accept that awkwardness, and just proceed.
“We have to just be adults when the committee comes back with a recommendation,” he said. “If we will take a look at what they recommend we will accept that recommendation or decide it is not appropriate and we can make an amendment.”
In Trail, councillors make $15,468 annually and the mayor is paid $30,936. Castlegar’s councillors make $14,000 and the mayor is paid $28,000 per year.