January 02, 2014 - 9:12 AM
KAMLOOPS – While a lot happened at council this year one of the issues to garner a lot of attention from the public, aside from the proposed Ajax mine and increased taxes, was council pay. Remuneration was by far one of the biggest and most contentious conversations council had this year.
The issue of council salary was first brought up by Coun. Nancy Bepple in April. She said at the time council was barely paid minimum wage for all the time they put in between meetings, events and public engagement and for those who it took away from a full-time job with benefits, it hit hard.
“A decision to run is a decision to not do something else,” she noted.
The ensuing seven months says council agree first to a staff report showing where the city ranked in pay and benefits compared to others and then to a task force to determine what exactly council benefits and pay should look like when the report showed Kamloops council members were the lowest paid out of 13 similar-sized cities.
All votes around the idea of a proposed raise had dissenters. Mayor Peter Milobar said he knew what he was getting into and didn't want to waste time on having staff put together a report, or a task force, while councillors Ken Christian and Marg Spina said that on the heels of the largest tax hike in years is not the time to look at an increase in council pay. Coun. Pat Wallace also sided with those not wanting to look at a pay increase at this point, in this way.
When the task force came back with it's recommendation in October, which included a raise for all of council as well as increased benefits in the new term, the recommendation was passed by council easily, though Milobar, Spina and Wallace were all absent. Coun. Tina Lange voted against the motion at that point, but only because she didn't agree with stepping in the raises as was outlined in the recommendation.
Milobar used his mayoral power in November to bring the vote forward with a full table, saying because of the lack of majority in the vote nearly a month beforehand he felt it needed to be done. Lange reversed her vote to be in favour of the motion and the raises passed again with a vote of 5-4.
In March council ended up at 3.55 per cent tax hike after a marathon meeting that saw councillors fight for their causes and axe those deemed not as necessary in an effort to reduce the initial 7.5 per cent hike on the table. The increase was to result in about a $60 increase per household at tax time but before the final budget was ratified heavy industry asked for a tax reduction and council obliged, increasing household tax bills by an average of another $7.50.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014