Council votes itself a raise

Penticton’s mayor and council has voted to give itself a raise, following the first review of council salaries since 2002.

Council voted Tuesday afternoon 4 - 3 to approve a series of recommendations made by an independent task force of five citizens.

The changes will see mayor John Vassilaki’s salary increased five per cent ($275 a month) and council eight per cent ($148 a month).

“I know this is not an easy task for a council to deal with, it puts councils in a very difficult position when they are looking at their own pay,” said task force member and former North Vancouver councillor Bob Heywood.

The pay bumps will be in addition to a separate increase meant to offset changes to the federal tax code that eliminates a policy that saw one-third tax of elected officials' income tax-free.

Heywood said the job of city councils, which often have to facilitate programs from upper levels of government, have never been harder.

“There is a need for municipal councils to attract increasingly more experienced people to the job,” he said.

While the whole of city council agreed a raise should be voted in, there was a divide on whether the decision should come into effect for this council or the next.

Coun. Campbell Watt tried to convince his colleagues to implement the raise after the next local elections, but did not get very far.

Coun. Jake Kimberley lamented having to make the decision, noting he wished the province dictated council pay based on population, but said they should just “get it over with.”

“This has been outstanding for so long,” he said.

“For those working people… there is a considerable amount of loss of income taking on this responsibility, and that responsibility is taken on because you have an interest in the city,” Kimberley added.

Mayor John Vassilaki agreed, stating he could make much more money working in the private sector.

“It’s not only for ourselves, but the next council that is coming up is also going to benefit,” he said. “Now we will get, perhaps, a lot more better people running for city council or mayor in the future.”

The approved changes also sees meal per diems increased to a maximum of $101 when the councillor is in the Lower Mainland and less elsewhere in B.C. A new system will also be created to publicly report councillor's attendance at committee meetings.

The vote passed 4 - 3 with Couns. Watt, Bloomfield and Regehr opposed.

The new salaries will see Penticton’s mayor paid $78,000 annually while councillors will make $26,000. Both wages will be tied to inflation moving forward.

In all, the changes will cost taxpayers an extra $35,849 this year.

The committee members that made the recommendations were Bob Heywood, Helen Sparkes, Gary Dean, Doug Leahy and Wayne Llewellyn.

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