Colwood council wage increase passes first step

Colwood council wage increase passes first step
City of Colwood/Facebook

Colwood’s committee of the whole voted 5-2 in favour of a wage increase that will almost double council salaries.

Coun. Michael Baxter, who moved the motion to accept the independent committee’s findings, said the benefit of increasing the money the mayor and council receives is to bring a diversity of voices to the council table.

“It seems that the current rate is limiting those who serve to people who really don’t need any money to serve,” Baxter said. “But there are people out there who we probably want to see at this table because they bring a different perspective and they can’t because they have mouths to feed.”

Baxter had initially moved to have the wage phased in over four years, but the committee of the whole voted 4-3 to implement it starting on Jan. 1, 2023, with councillors Baxter, Cynthia Day and Doug Kobayashi against.

Kobayashi argued a raise is needed, but a smaller raise than the one proposed based on a Union of B.C. Municipalities guide on considerations to change council remuneration.

Kobayashi says looking at different municipalities with comparable operating budgets, location, geographic size, and growth rate he calculated a different number than the committee.

“What it ends up, if we were to take the median value, is about $44,000 for the mayor, which means a councillor would make $22,000,” Kobayashi said.

“Which sort of makes sense, because I just did a ‘sanity check’ on the numbers, because if we went through and used the numbers we have right now, that’s over a 100 per cent increase for the mayor, and 100 per cent increase for the councillors. There’s no way you’re going to sell that to the public.”

READ MORE: Colwood council to consider report recommending mayor, councillor wages nearly double

The current salary for the mayor is $32,992.14 and councillors is $16,496.07. Based on the current population from BC Stats, that puts the salary at $1.74 per resident for the mayor.

The report recommends raising that stipend to $3.22, which would put the mayor’s salary at $61,054.42 and councillors at $30,527.21. Salaries for the councillors are currently set to be 50 per cent of what the mayor’s salary is, and the report recommends keeping that practice.

Mayor Rob Martin said he supports the wage increase proposed by the committee, because he has heard from some that the current wages are a barrier to wanting to run for Colwood council.

“This isn’t about this table, this table can afford it, to be here right now, and truth of the matter is myself and Councillor Kobayashi have both announced that we’re running before these numbers were there. So it’s not the deciding factor for us, but it’s a deciding factor for a lot of people that are considering adding value to this city,” Martin said.

“We should be making this an opportunity for young people. I spoke to two UVic students who are seriously considering running but are struggling because they need to have a part time job and that part time job was not going to be council at the old reimbursement rate.”

As part of the increase, the report recommends annual increases based on the number of residents the city has based on BC Stats.

Day was opposed to this factor in particular, as she said this would create a perception that councillors are incentivized to increase the population of the city.

“I think there’s a fundamental error that has been made, in that tying remuneration for council to the population in fact kind of creates a bias towards development,” Day said.

“Tying our remuneration to the population of our community I think is unfair…the population doesn’t really affect the work that we do. It does a little, but I think we can accomplish that in a better way and it wouldn’t leave that distasteful perception that the more people we can rezone Colwood for, the more money the council will make.”

As part of the report, it is recommended that in four years another independent committee is formed to review council remuneration.

Kobayashi and Day were the two who voted against the wage increase.

The report will come back before council to make a final vote before it is implemented.

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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