Lake Cowichan politicians have accepted most of the recommendations about remuneration for town council, including raises for the mayor and councillors, and the new set-up will take effect Dec. 1.
Consultant C. Douglas Lang prepared a report that was considered at the July 22 council meeting.
The review was commissioned by the Town of Lake Cowichan under the direction of council to determine the appropriate level of compensation and benefits for the next mayor and council, who will be elected in November.
Lang compared six communities with smaller and six with larger populations than Lake Cowichan.
The communities selected are from around the province so as not to get an urban skew to the survey. He also looked at Duncan, North Cowichan and Ladysmith since they are geographically nearby.
The populations of the comparative group start at 2,186 people and go to 3,691 people.
His comparison shows that "there is no linear relationship between council remuneration and population size of the community. This lack of linear relationship is not totally surprising as each community has unique and varying degrees of challenges and opportunities that councils are required to handle for the wellbeing of the community."
Looking at his averages, Lang concluded that Lake Cowichan’s current remuneration for its mayor is lower than average while councillors receive more than the average he saw. "However this cursory observation may not be true as councillors’ workloads and dealing with complex issues for the Town of Lake Cowichan may be greater than what is occurring in the other comparative communities," he said in defence of the current regime.
Lake Cowichan’s mayor receives $15,800 per year while councillors get $10,600.
"What is intriguing is that in the six communities with population less than Lake Cowichan we find four communities that pay the mayor’s position at a higher rate than Lake Cowichan and in the six communities larger than Lake Cowichan there are only two communities which pay their mayor at a higher rate," Lang pointed out.
He found that the most apparent discrepancy for Lake Cowichan is in the ratio of the mayor’s salary compared to what is paid to councillors.
At 67 per cent for Lake Cowichan, "this ratio is the highest in the group which suggests, possibly correctly, that a councillor’s workload in Lake Cowichan is two-thirds of what the mayor’s does for the town. In most communities this would not be the case," he said.
Lang said his survey "points to a remuneration adjustment for the mayor’s position" particularly when looking at the compensation paid for this position in the smaller communities in the survey. He suggested the mayor’s salary be adjusted to $20,000 per year and that councillors move to $11,000 per annum, which would be 55 per cent of what the mayor would be paid.
Council remuneration should also be increased annually by the Canadian Consumer Price Index unless the CPI number is negative, in which case no adjustment will be made.
Lang’s recommendations would start Dec. 1, 2014 with the CPI adjustment effective from Jan. 1, 2016.
Under benefits, there is quite a range, even in his small group, Lang said.
For council per diem, Lake Cowichan is one of the lower paying communities.
"It is not likely, unless fast food is exclusively eaten, that a member of council can have three meals and cover incidentals for the cost of $50, especially in a place like
Victoria or Whistler. I do acknowledge that there is a greater sum of $60 allowed for Vancouver and outside of B.C. One would be hard pressed to cover the cost of all three meals at $60 in Vancouver," Lang said.
He suggested that a wage loss provision be eliminated under "benefits" and members of council participate in the town’s extended health benefit plan, provided that the council member pays 100 per cent of the premium and that the per diem for trips be increased to $60 per day on the island and to $75 per day for off-island travel.
"I agree with 99 per cent of Mayor Ross Forrest else." the report," said Coun. Tim
McGonigle. "The one thing I do not agree with is the workload between the mayor and councillors. At present it’s a 67 per cent ratio, and he suggests 55. I would move 60 per cent to meet in the middle. I don’t mean anything against the mayor, he does have a heavy work load as well."
Coun. Bob Day was concerned about removal of the wage loss provision.
"Some people choose to use all their holidays to do council-related stuff and never go to Hawaii or take a road trip but others of us might not choose to do that."
Lake Cowichan CAO Joe Fernandez pointed out, "This report has triggered interest in other communities who are also looking at revemping their remuneration for their councillors."
Mayor Ross Forrest reminded the group that Lake Cowichan always looks for an outside opinion on these subjects.
"One thing that’s never been done to my knowledge here is that council has never set their own remuneration," he said.
Coun. Jayne Ingram agreed with Forrest.
"I think remuneration should never be determined by this table. It’s just better all around that it’s done independently somewhere else."