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qathet Regional District mulls increase to directors' stipend

Board indemnities discussed by finance committee members
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RECOMMENDATION PRESENTED: qathet Regional District city director George Doubt advocated for an increase to directors’ indemnities to be less than the stipulated six per cent, which was the consumer price index amount upon which the regional district policy based the increase.

qathet Regional District’s (1RD) board of directors will consider a six per cent increase to the directors’ annual indemnity to match the consumer price index (CPI).

At the December 7 finance committee, directors were presented a recommendation that the increase to the annual indemnity and meeting allowance rates in 2023 be made, and that the board amend the distance allowance to reference Canada Revenue Agency automobile allowance rates for the calendar year. The regional board will have the item on its December 20 meeting agenda.

At the meeting, city director George Doubt said the committee needed to spend some time thinking about the increase.

“I can remember when we adopted the policy; it was when inflation was predictable and rather low,” said Doubt. “It’s not that way now and it’s particularly high this year. Who knows if that is going to continue, but I’d like to pay attention to some of the other numbers. We saw the assumptions on our financial plan and that includes the wage scale for our CUPE employees at a 2.25 per cent increase.

“I don’t know about anyone else but it makes me feel a little bit uncomfortable to know our employees are going to expect a 2.25 per cent wage increase while we give ourselves six per cent. I know that’s in keeping up with inflation, but I would like to spend some time putting some thought into that.”

Electoral Area E director and finance committee chair Andrew Fall asked if the board was to delay a decision on the remuneration increase, whether that would cause any problems for financial staff.

Assistant manager of financial services Jason Kouwenhoven said it would be ideal to have the increase in place for January 1. Manager of financial services Linda Greenan said if there was approval later than January 1, meeting allowances before the bylaw was adopted would be paid at the old rate, and after adoption, they would be paid at the new rate. She said the distance allowance would also be based on the old rate until the bylaw is adopted.

Electoral Area B director Mark Gisborne said he wanted to make an amendment to the motion that the six per cent be struck out and be replaced by 2.25 per cent.

Chief administrative officer Al Radke said there would need to be a change to the bylaw before the amendment could go forward because staff are working off a policy that is directed through bylaw, so the bylaw would have to come back and be amended to change the percentage rate.

Stick to bylaw, says city director

City director Cindy Elliott said there is a bylaw with a schedule so the matter is not rehashed ad hoc every time the themes change.

“If the board that created the CPI decision at the time they did and thought it was better to tie it to union wage, then that’s what they would have said,” said Elliott. “I’m thinking it’s better not to undo the past decisions and move forward on the current schedule.

“Directors don’t get paid very much. We’re not talking about very much money. We should stick to our bylaw.”

Electoral Area C director and board chair Clay Brander said he agreed with Elliott and her assessment of the situation.

Gisborne said he thought it was a sign of leadership to bear the burden along with the union workers.

Doubt said taxpayers are facing some increases. He said at City of Powell River council meetings, people are worried hearing they might have a tax increase around five per cent. He said the regional district tax increase for a resident in the city seems to be about 10 per cent.

“I know from experience that every taxpayer in the area will say to me, the first time they see me, how is it you get a six per cent raise while other people get much less, and our taxes are going up by even more than that?” said Doubt. “They’ll be looking for an explanation, so I think we owe this careful thought.”

Elliot said when policies are created, governments should operate by those policies.

“Maybe the policy needs to change and the CPI should not be in the policy,” said Elliott. “I would be totally in favour of changing the policy and operating by whatever policy we approve, but I’m not in favour of changing things that are contrary to the policy without changing the policy.”

The amendment to change the annual indemnity increase to 2.25 per cent from six per cent failed. The finance committee voted to send the annual indemnity to the regional board for decision.

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