News

Abbotsford approves 9% wage increase for mayor; 7% for councillors

It will cost Abbotsford taxpayers an extra $27,900 per year for the city’s next council, along with an additional $15,000 in benefits.

On Monday, council approved a wage increase of nine per cent for the mayor and seven per cent for councillors, effective Dec. 1, 2011, shortly after the municipal election in November.

The mayor’s salary climbs from $86,600 to $94,500, while councillors will go from $34,700 to $37,200.

The mayor’s last salary bump was in January of 2007, while councillors’ earnings were boosted in December of 2008.

The mayor’s increase represents an average of 1.8 per cent annually over the past five years, and 2.4 per cent per year for councillors over the past three.

In addition, members of council have the option to enrol in a health benefits plan. As well, the mayor will receive an annual $2,500 stipend, and each councillor $1,000, for attending community events, plus an additional $4,000 annually for the mayor and $2,000 for councillors, to attend conferences.

No car allowance is provided to the mayor or councillors.

Coun. Dave Loewen said it was “unpalatable” to vote himself a raise.

“That’s why we do it for the next council – I take some comfort in that,” he said.

Coun. Patricia Ross agreed.

“If you want to attract good, quality people to run the city ... you have to compensate accordingly.”

Coun. Bill MacGregor, who voted against the city’s budget increase in December, did not support the salary hike.

“I cannot vote myself, or anyone else, a raise until we have taken care of our own fiscal house,” he said.

MacGregor said it’s time to meet with community leaders, business and other financial experts to take a look at the city’s tax system, which he believes doesn’t work.

“I’m trying to ring this cow bell that we can’t keep doing business as usual. We can’t keep going to pockets that are empty,” he told The News.

“If you don’t lead properly, you’ll have nothing left to manage,” said MacGregor.

The salary and benefits package was based on a $9,000 report by Tim Dillon and Associates, a consulting firm which reviewed the salaries of other municipal politicians in 10 comparable cities.

The firm’s recommendations placed Abbotsford in the mid-range of civic government salaries in Coquitlam, Delta, Kelowna, Langley Township, Maple Ridge, Nanaimo, New Westminster, Richmond, Saanich and Surrey.

Last year, Surrey’s mayor earned $109,000, while councillors received $60,000. Surrey’s population is estimated at 433,924. In Maple Ridge (population 73,957), the mayor was paid $100,594 and councillors earned just over $43,000.

On the low end of the scale, Kelowna’s mayor earned $57,906 in 2009, while councillors got $20,460. Kelowna is home to 118,507 residents, compared to Abbotsford’s estimated population of 133.556.

(All population figures are based on BC Stats 2008 estimates).

ADDITIONAL DUTIES ADD TO COUNCIL REMUNERATION

Monday’s decision to increase city council salaries does not cap the earnings of local elected officials.

The base salaries ($94,500 for the mayor and $37,200 for councillors) does not include expenses or remuneration for participation on other committees.

Any member of council who attends an Abbotsford/Mission Water and Sewer Commission meeting receives $102 per meeting.

In addition, one-third of council’s base salary is deemed to be tax-free.

Council members also earn funds external to the city. Any members who sit on the Metro Vancouver Board, or the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD), receive remuneration from those organizations.

According to 2009 financial statements released by the FVRD, Coun. Patricia Ross earned $19,429, plus $9,714 in expenses, as chair of the district.

Expenses can include transportation, meals and other items such as conferences.

Mayor George Peary received $5,670, plus $2,835 in expenses, for his role as a regional director. Couns. Moe Gill ($4,489.27 plus $2,244.63 expenses) and John Smith ($4,489.27 and $2,244.63 in expenses) are also FVRD directors.

Couns. Bill MacGregor, Dave Loewen and Les Barkman, each received $113 plus about $56 in expenses.

Metro Vancouver’s 2009 financial report shows Peary earned $7,907 as a Metro board member, while Gill received $5,750 and Barkman earned $316. No expenses were paid for those positions.

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