Kent council to get pay raise

Fisher votes against CAO's suggestions for increase to remuneration in Agassiz

Kent council has voted to give themselves a raise, after reading a report from the District’s CAO Wallace Mah that showed a disparity in remuneration among similar-sized communities.

Mah told council that the current amounts are “falling substantially behind” what comparative communities are paying for their elected officials.

Council voted 4-1 in favour of the increase in pay, with Councillor Lorne Fisher voicing his opposition to the amount of the increase.

The mayor’s remuneration will increase from $19,534 per year to $24,419 and the four council positions will increase from $10,655 to $12,111 each. The new numbers were calculated by comparing 13 B.C. communities of a similar size, and finding the average.

While the increase is meant to bring council’s remuneration in line with other communities, Mah’s report also stated that the hours of work put into the position should be considered.

“The modest increase may help in offsetting lost wages for leaving their job, or to assist with the operation cost of bringing in additional help to support the business,” the report said.

The raise does not sit well with Fisher, who sat as mayor for the past two terms.

“It’s probably unfair of me to express an opinion on this, because I’m the only one here that doesn’t work for a living,” he said. “It’s not as if I lose money by being here, whereas for the others there is a cost.”

The last time council visited renumeration was in 2008, when it was decided to stick with the Cost of Living Allowance/ Consumer Price Index percentage, he said.

That is the route Fisher hoped council would take again.

Mah did list an alternative in his report to take that route, increasing remuneration by 2.9 per cent, instead of the 25 per cent and 13 per cent increases suggested in the report.

“I would be much more comfortable going that route,” Fisher said. “Number one, it’s the policy we have in place. And number two, even though we would still be behind, I don’t necessarily agree with the amounts being paid in some of those areas.”

A smaller increase would have kept Kent in line with Hope, which currently pays their mayor $19,104 and councillors $9,551.

Mayor John Van Laerhoven supported the increase, saying that other communities would be increasing their remuneration for council as well.

“I think its fair to increase them to the average,” he said. “I know that if we do just give it the CPI increase we won’t catch up to the status quo, because my understanding is that in other districts, at lot of these numbers will receive a lift … so we will continue to be down there.”

Other councillors commented cautiously on the increases before voting.

“I think to be average would be fair,” Councillor Holger Schwichtenberg said.

“I always thought that the mayor should be compensated higher to what he was making,” added Councillor Darcy Striker.

“But the councillors? That’s a tough one for me,” he said. “Because some weeks I’m really busy at meetings and some week I’m not so busy. But looking at the averages, we’re way behind Harrison, that’s for sure.”

With a community of 1,573 (the smallest population used in Mah’s report), the Village pays their mayor $30,000 and councillors $15,000. The only community in the report that pays more is Sparwood, with a population of 3,618.

Striker said that being a councillor does interfere with holiday plans with family at times “and compensation for that would nice.”

“The increase isn’t that much, (at $1,456 annually) so I would be fine with it,” he said.

Councillor Duane Post, serving his first term, said he didn’t feel his portion needed to go up.

“But the mayor’s compensation needs to go up to put it in line with other communities, knowing how much time the mayor puts in,” he said. “It’s a full time job and he’s being paid part time for it.”

The mayor called the decision “a difficult one” and thanked council for their input.