Penticton city council justifies pay increases - InfoNews

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Penticton city council justifies pay increases

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June 19, 2019 - 3:49 PM

PENTICTON - Calling it a tough decision, Penticton city council has accepted a committee's recommendation for a pay hike.

The mayor and city council talked about the difficulty of their jobs as most voted to accept the recommendations of a task force committee assembled late last year to look into council remuneration following a change in legislation that would see municipal politicians lose the tax free portion of one-third of their income.

The committee members were selected from a wide variety of backgrounds and experience in government and business leadership.

The recommendations will add $9,893 a year to the mayor’s salary and $2,000 a year to councillors’ pay to make up for the loss of their tax free portion.

The committee also recommended a $275 monthly or five per cent raise for the mayor, and a $148 monthly increase, or eight per cent, for councillors, with future rates tied to the Consumer Price Index.

The increases will cost taxpayers an additional $35,849 annually, and take the mayor's salary from $65,139 to $78,322.

Council would see remuneration increase from $22,160 a year to $25,936.

Obviously uncomfortable with making the decision to increase their pay, council proved up to the task, in spite of the fact the most senior members of council declared they didn’t need the money. At the same time, several noted how much time and effort they were putting into the job, at meagre compensation.

Coun. Katie Robinson talked about last fall’s election, and the subsequent changing of federal tax rules and loss of tax free income.

“That one-third, nowhere did anyone say we were going to take a cut in pay. It’s a no-brainer we should get some compensation for what we are going to lose in federal taxation,” she said.

Coun. Jake Kimberley called it “a difficult task” and that it made him “really uncomfortable.” He advocated handing over responsibility for making the remuneration decision to the province through a UBCM resolution, which was also a committee recommendation.

“The issue is our involvement isn’t just here in council. We can’t go anywhere without being approached by someone. We don’t get paid for all those occasions when you have to sit down and discuss issues when you’re out, socially or otherwise,” Kimberley said.

Coun. Sentes said she was “truly thankful” for the committee’s work, calling the methods used “the way to go." She said severing on council would be difficult for a young person who would inevitably lose money.

“With no increase since 2002, that was 17 years ago, that’s too long a gap,” she said. “It’s not a money making job but I think it should be fair. Figures reflective of 2002, that’s not fair."

“It’s a big ask on our time and absolutely we’ve stepped forward to do that. I have no problem with all you’ve recommended,” Sentes said.

Mayor John Vassilaki said he would probably make the most out of accepting the recommendations, saying he worked seven days a week.

“We attend meetings during the day, go to many, many other meetings. It’s not the meetings we attend and the folks we have to listen to, but all the other things we have to do. If it were up to me, I’d give the councillors more,” he said. “For the amount of work they do, the amount of time they put in, and the time they’re away from their families, and all the other stuff they should be enjoying at their age they deserve a lot more than is given to them."

"Perhaps now, we’ll get a lot more, better people running for city council or the mayor in the future," Vassilaki said.

“For me, its a labour of love, I don’t do it for the money, I could make a heck of a lot more in private practice. I’m not like past mayors who put in part time into it, I put full time into it,” he said.

Coun. Campbell Watt took an alternative view, urging his fellow councillors to hold over “anything financially impactful to the public” to the next council.

“Whatever’s financially impactful I’d like to see taken out,” he said, noting an adjustment for losing the one-third non-taxable portion of their income would “take a little more from taxpayer’s pockets.”

"If we aren’t doing this for us, why implement now instead of waiting for next council. We talk about the time we put in; it unfortunately comes across to me we’re looking to get paid by the hour, or we weren’t fully prepared when we took this position,” Watt said.

Council voted in favour of the committee’s recommendations.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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