Mayors and councillors who sit on Metro Vancouver’s board or its committees are enjoying a nearly five per cent increase in the meeting fees they collect.
Metro directors are now paid $346 for every meeting they attend, up from $330 in 2011 and $322 in 2010. The fees double if a meeting exceeds four hours.
The 4.8 per cent raise this spring came not through any vote of the board but from an automatic recalculation performed each year by administrators, who use a formula that increases directors’ fees in proportion with any rise in the median of Metro Vancouver mayors’ salaries.
If a few cities raise their mayors’ salaries, the regional median rises and Metro meeting fees climb again the following year as a result.
According to Metro figures, Delta Mayor Lois Jackson’s pay rose more than any other mayor in the region this year — a 16.7 per cent jump from $100,523 to $117,360.
Other cities where mayors got double-digit pay hikes that helped lift regional directors’ fees were Abbotsford (up 13.3 per cent to $102,900), Langley Township (up 12.5 per cent to $105,456) and New Westminster (up 11 per cent to $91,015.)
(Abbotsford is included in Metro’s calculation even though its directors only vote on Metro parks matters.)
But Jackson says Metro used the wrong number for her salary – she says her actual stipend is $110,653 but the regional district added in her car allowance for the first time.
In contrast, Metro used salaries without car allowances for Burnaby’s Derek Corrigan ($117,532) and Surrey’s Dianne Watts ($116,717). If their car allowances are added in the future, the regional fees could be driven higher again.
Metro officials say they used the figures local cities gave and had told them to include car or other allowances that are counted as taxable income.
Jackson said Metro’s use of inconsistent salary figures has resulted in an inaccurate calculation of the fees and has artificially inflated how much Metro directors are paid for each meeting.
“The methodology they’re using is totally flawed in my opinion,” she said. “It’s got to be tightened up. I think we have to re-analyze this again. It draws into question the entire method of the calculation.”
She wants the issue brought up for discussion at an upcoming Metro mayors’ committee meeting, where she will press for changes.
“You’ve got to compare apples to apples. How can you possibly have anything meaningful if everyone is reporting differently?”
Metro board chair Greg Moore agreed Jackson’s concerns will be heard – perhaps in September – but said the aim will be to clarify the system and ensure staff get consistent numbers from each city.
“We will bring that back to Metro to have that discussion,” he said.
Directors don’t relish reopening the debate on how they’re paid.
Civic leaders have admitted before the automated increases for Metro fees are bad optics, but they’ve done nothing to stop them, arguing it would be worse to be seen directly voting to give themselves pay hikes.
Cities that did add in their mayors’ car or other allowances as part of the salary reported to Metro this year include Coquitlam, Abbotsford, Maple Ridge and Vancouver.
Jackson argues all the car allowances should be stripped out and the regional fees should be recalculated based solely on mayors’ base salaries, resulting in a modest cut in the fees for Metro directors.
Jackson isn’t arguing to repeal the bylaw that requires the formula-driven pay calculations.
But she wants the region to consider a cap on annual director fee increases, perhaps so they can’t rise by more than the rate of inflation.
She admitted part of the problem is most cities in the region have their own system to recalculate their council’s pay, often based on an average of what elected officials receive at other Metro cities of similar size. The effect is that when some increase, the rest are later ratcheted up as well.
The average pay of a mayor in the region has climbed 33 per cent since 2006 from $63,000 to $84,000.
The biggest increases have been at Langley Township, Langley City and Maple Ridge, where mayors now earn at least 60 per cent more than they did in 2006.
Metro directors received nearly $714,000 last year through the $330 per meeting fee, plus $44,000 in travel expenses.
TOP PAID METRO VANCOUVER DIRECTORS IN 2011
Lois Jackson (Delta mayor and Metro chair for 2011): $66,887 + $13,637 expenses.Gayle Martin (Langley City councillor): $35,522 + $2,612 expensesRichard Walton (North Vancouver District mayor and Metro vice-chair): $33,161, no expensesGreg Moore (Port Coquitlam mayor): $29,250 + $9,693 in expensesWayne Wright (New Westminster mayor): $28,980 + $1,557 expensesDarrell Mussatto (North Vancouver City mayor): $27,000 + $262 expensesDerek Corrigan (Burnaby mayor): $23,760 + $217 expensesTim Stevenson (Vancouver councillor): $24,615 + $3,525 expensesMalcolm Brodie (Richmond mayor): $21,310 + $233 expensesHarold Steves (Richmond councillor): $21,064 + no expenses
METRO PAY RATES
- Chair receives 75 per cent of the median salary of Metro mayors, or $69,128. Vice-chair receives half that amount.
- Directors are paid 0.5 per cent of the chair’s salary for every meeting they attend, now increased to $346. Fees double for meetings longer than four hours.
- Metro fees are over and above the salaries politicians receive from their home community.
INTERACTIVE CHARTS: How Metro mayors pay has changed since 2006
The following graphs show data provided by Metro Vancouver. Some cities have included vehicle and other allowances, while others have not.