Despite a last-minute request for an amendment, followed by heated debate on a long-contentious issue, Columbia Shuswap Regional District directors approved a remuneration bylaw.
Financial Services Manager Jodi Pierce presented directors with a bylaw at the Sept. 20 board meeting in Salmon Arm that was crafted by a select committee after three or four prior attempts were turned down by the board.
The committee that was struck to come up with a new bylaw was comprised of Rhona Martin, chair of the committee and the CSRD board, Golden Coun. Caleb Moss, Salmon Arm director Kevin Flynn and Area C South Shuswap director Paul Demenok.
Following an Aug. 15 committee meeting, Pierce distributed the committee’s proposed bylaw and received no comments, aside from one director who met with her to ask questions about amendments.
In her introduction to the bylaw, Pierce noted that a one-third reduction in the tax-free allowance was the work of the federal government and that money had been built into the bylaw to address the issue.
Martin told directors at the meeting that the committee members had had an extremely in-depth discussion with give and take on both sides and came up with what they believed was the best they could do.
“I know some people weren’t happy,” she said, noting Pierce had worked hard on crafting the bylaw and put in long hours to help the committee reach consensus. “Thanks for putting up with all the bulls—t.”
Pointing out there could never be a perfect solution, Martin asked the board to approve the new bylaw.
But Loni Parker, Area B Rural Revelstoke director, who has chosen not to run in the 2018 election, said in her 25 years on the board, there had been some pay increases but never enough to compensate for the work electoral area directors do.
She asked directors to approve an amendment to the bylaw that would increase the stipend directors get to attend core meetings by 4.2 per cent, from $5,200 to $6,650 per year and raise the pay for other meetings from $270 to $350 per day.
Parker responded to a remark from Salmon Arm director Chad Eliason that MPs and MLAs get paid the same, no matter where they come from. She said rural directors are on-call 24-7 in their communities and work full board days, while municipal directors leave after the morning session.
Area D Falkland/Deep Creek/Salmon Valley director Rene Talbot concurred, stating municipal directors do not represent the regional district – a notion Martin quickly corrected.
“Just to be clear, municipalities are a part of the regional district,” she said.
Given his opportunity to comment, Sicamous Mayor Terry Rysz said he sits on a great many committees and always makes clear he is representing Sicamous and the CSRD board.
Clearly frustrated, Revelstoke Mayor Mark McKee observed that directors should be speaking to the amendment only.
“This is turning into a committee meeting and that, in my opinion, is not the way to go.”
Demenok, who seconded Parker’s proposed amendment, pointed out rural directors get paid $270 for a full day’s work while municipal directors get $215 for a half day.
“At the last meeting, most of the stuff was on the afternoon agenda,” he said. “That means EA directors get paid $55 for the afternoon.”
Moss jumped in, calling for the “re-hashing” to end and for the matter to be sent back to committee if directors could not move ahead with the vote.
Parker’s proposed amendment to increase the amount electoral area directors are paid, which was supported by five of the six electoral area directors, was defeated. A visibly angry Flynn called the continuing debate ridiculous.
“I rue the day I agreed to go on this committee; it has been the most frustrating experience of my career,” he said. “A consultant came in and the board ignored the report at a waste of taxpayers’ money and then it went back to staff.”
Thanking Pierce for her longtime efforts to bring the remuneration issue to successful closure, Flynn also expressed frustration at what he called blindsiding by the introduction of the amendment at the board meeting.
Demenok asked for and received approval to increase the number of paid-for electoral area meetings from four to five per year and the bylaw passed with that amendment.
When the bylaw comes into effect on Jan. 1, 2019, directors’ net remuneration will increase on average by
approximately 3.42 per cent. Electoral area directors will receive a stipend of $23,000, which includes pay for work in their region, as well as for attending meetings. Municipal directors will receive a stipend of $15,000. Board members also receive stipends to attend specified public hearings, conferences and meetings outside of the regularly scheduled board and committee meetings.