PENTICTON - The regional district board decided to avoid the political pitfalls inherent with voting for their own pay adjustment, taking a cue from Penticton directors to form a citizen’s group to make the decision for them instead.
The matter under discussion at yesterday’s regular board meeting, Feb. 21, concerned recent changes to federal tax laws regarding a municipal politician’s income that resulted in the loss of the tax free portion of a politician’s remuneration as of Jan.1.
A staff recommendation before the board suggested adjusting the elected officials compensation to offset the income tax changes.
Financial officer John Kurvink told the board based on a typical director’s income of $29,576.06, directors would pay $2,955 more in taxes this year with the change, going from $5,917 in taxes paid in 2018 to $8,872 in 2019.
Kurvink said politicians’ remuneration would have to increase by $4,961 based on the example cited, which would amount to a tax increase of $1.01 per household in the regional district.
Penticton directors led the way in opposing a board-approved increase. Penticton director John Vassilaki noted the city put together an independent committee to decide whether further compensation was warranted, calling it "hypocritical” not to do the same at the regional district.
Penticton director Julius Bloomfield agreed, calling it “inappropriate” to talk about pay increases while the year’s budget deliberations were taking place.
“We need to show we can make decisions… I think we have to give them some results first,” he said of the city’s deference of the issue to a committee.
Penticton director Jake Kimberley also weighed in the matter, noting politicians are the only ones who decide their income, calling it a "bone of contention with the public.”
“I’m quite satisfied with the compensation we get, and I do believe in paying my fair share of taxes,” said Cawston director George Bush, sentiments also echoed by Hedley director Tim Roberts.
Other directors argued the increase wasn’t really an increase at all.
“Personally I’m in support of this. There are many politicians who have been around this table for a long time who are now getting less money, which doesn’t seem appropriate for people who have been here for 10 years, to start making less money,” Naramata director Karla Kozakevich said.
Osoyoos director Sue McKortoff said Osoyoos council saw it as an increase to the budget but not an increase to the politicians, who were taking less money home due to change in taxation.
“It’s an increase to the budget, but not an increase to our take home pay. All we did was allow the finance officer to figure out what it would be so our take home pay at the end of the month would remain the same with the higher taxes, so I’m totally in favour of this,” she said.
“I don’t see this as an increase either, it’s a balancing out,” Keremeos director Manfred Bauer said.
The board turned down the staff recommendation in favour of forming a citizen’s committee to look at both the equalization issue and remuneration in general, making it unlikely any recommendations will come back to the board in time for this year’s budget.
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