More than 130 staff members in the Cowichan Valley’s three local governments make more than $75,000 a year in pay and benefits, according to financial statements from 2016.
They include 65 staff members at the Cowichan Valley Regional District, 54 at the Municipality of North Cowichan and 11 at the City of Duncan.
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As with most municipalities in B.C., politicians in the three jurisdictions get paid much less than most of the senior staff members who work for them.
But some elected officials like Jon Lefebure, who is both chairman of the CVRD and mayor of North Cowichan, combine salaries from their different jobs.
The highest paid local government staff member in the Valley in 2016 was Dave Devana, the former CAO of North Cowichan, who made $193,485 in salary and benefits.
Devana left the municipality after seven years of service in March, 2017, for still undisclosed reasons.
The next highest paid staff member was Brian Carruthers, CAO of the CVRD, who made $189,975 in salary and benefits in 2016.
North Cowichan’s director of development services Scott Mack came third on the list with a salary of $165,387, followed by the CVRD’s general manager of corporate services Mark Kueber who made $162,813 in 2016.
As for council members, each councillor in North Cowichan made $21,865 in base salary and benefits last year, while Mayor John Lefebure made $59,869.
The base pay and benefits for directors in the CVRD that represent electoral areas total $30,984, while directors appointed from among councillors in Duncan and North Cowichan on the board make approximately half as much.
Some CVRD directors make a little more depending on the number and nature of committees they sit on.
The regional district’s chairman of the board Jon Lefebure made $42,611 in 2016.
In the City of Duncan, councillors made $13,385 in salaries and benefits last year, while Mayor Phil Kent made $23,891.
Lefebure said the hiring of staff in local governments is market driven, and they must compete with other jurisdictions to attain the best people possible to do the required job.
“We’re always looking for the best person to be the best fit for job vacancies, as are other local governments, and there’s always lots of moving around and even poaching of staff among all three local governments in the Valley,” he said.
“It’s a very competitive marketplace for good staff members. Good managers can save their employers lots of money because just one single mistake in a contract or legal case can get us into a lot of hot water and cost a lot more money than any difference in salaries.”
As for the significant difference in pay scales between senior staff and elected officials in the Valley’s local governments, Lefebure said that, historically, the local politicians’ jobs were generally seen as part-time work, even though the positions are now often very challenging, stressful and time consuming.
“I think I’m fairly well paid (for his roles as mayor of North Cowichan and chairman of the CVRD) for all the work I do, but I think some councillors and directors are less fairly compensated for all their hard work,” he said.
But Lefebure said it’s the local politicians who must approve pay raises, including their own, and large pay increases for elected officials are sometimes considered “politically unwise”.
“However, it sometimes must be recognized that some local governments are falling behind others in their wages for politicians, which makes it harder to get good people willing to run for the job,” he said.
“In those cases, councils will often request a study that would list the wages and benefits in comparable jurisdictions to help them make decisions.”