October 24, 2013 - 9:28 AM
PUSHED THROUGH WITHOUT THREE MAIN DISSENTERS
KAMLOOPS – It took several months of discussion, a seven person task force, 140 hours of meetings and one quick discussion in council chambers Tuesday for council to approve a nearly $10,000 raise for future city councillors.
The task force was created this summer and the seven volunteers, representatives of the financial, law, not-for-profit, insurance and business fields, took to the streets to ask for public opinion on the matter. More than 400 people took part in the face-to-face surveys and many had strong opinions according to chair Brant Hasanen.
“We had some great conversations, there was a lot of people in the community who didn't care,” Hasanen told council, “but those who did care were either strongly in favour of average compensation, or felt it was inappropriate.”
The main fight before council Tuesday was who thought the motion, slightly altered from the recommendation from the task force, was appropriate and whether council should just go straight to 40 per cent of the mayor's salary as the report recommended. The proposal bumped up the current councillor pay of $24,000 over three years from 35 per cent of the mayor's salary (currently about $75,000) to 40 per cent by 2017.
Coun. Ken Christian was the lone original opposition to a raise at council today, with Mayor Peter Milobar in Nanaimo for provincial meetings, Coun. Marg Spina dealing with a family death and Coun. Pat Wallace away on a previously planned vacation. He believes the motion still would've passed had the council table been full even though Lange did join him in voting against the motion today, but only because she opposed to the stepping of the rate.
Christian had several questions for the task force about how they came to the recommendation but afterwards said the timing is still not correct for any raises.
“We have negotiations with CUPE, we have IAFF arbitration coming up and we just saddled the tax payer with 4%,” Christian said afterwards, “that's the highest tax increase we've given them in a decade.”
While he is unhappy with the timing of the raises, he does believe this will be reflected in the next election.
“Citizens will have an opportunity to say who that next council will be, so from that perspective I can live with it,” he said. “The citizens will get a good shot at us in November 2014.”
'MORE OF A HOBBY' FOR SOME
Shots also came from Coun. Donovan Cavers who also runs his own catering business. He said he dropped $10,000 in net income the year after getting elected, something he attributes to the necessary time needed to be put into being a councillor.
“From what the job takes, I think an increase is necessary,” he said. “There's some councillors where it's obviously more of a hobby than anything. Christian for instance, he has a fairly comfortable IHA pension I'm sure, so this is just sort of an interesting conversation for him. But for those who are actually trying to make a living, you actually need to be able to have some semblance of a comfortable life while doing the job of being a councillor.”
Cavers agrees that the time commitment, answering emails at all times of the day, has cut more into his personal time than his business and accepts that he's put that expectation on himself.
“That's what I'd expect any other councillor to do,” he notes. “What I see from a good councillor is somebody who is always available and accessible and that's one of the things I try to do personally.”
After the meeting Christian said all councillors take the job seriously and do the job to the best of their ability.
“It's not about saying other councillors are not worth it. This council works hard,” he says. “I think we need to focus on what we can do for the city of Kamloops and what we can do as councillors as opposed to taking shots at each other. We need to move along and go forward.”
The raises will go into effect at the beginning of the next term in early 2015. The first phase will see a raise of about $5,000 with councillors earning a total of about $10,000 more by 2017. Benefits will also become optional for councillors (the mayor already receives them) and a communications allowance will be discontinued and council will instead be offered a cell phone, tablet or laptop under the city plan to help keep things more efficient.
Council also agreed to rescind the decision earlier this year for the $1,000 raise, opting to instead continue with a cost of living increase until the next term.
The issue of pay was first raised in late March, when Coun. Nancy Bepple said city councillors were barely making minimum wage based on the number of hours they put in. Not all of council agreed with the assessment but a motion to have staff create a comparison report was passed and once the report, which showed Kamloops councillors well behind councillors in comparable cities came out six motions and a split vote finally led to the the $1,000 raise and creation of the citizen task force.
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This story was last updated at 9:09 a.m. Oct. 23, 2013.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013