An attempt to slash council salaries a second time this term was scuttled by Lantzville council on Monday.
In a 4-2 vote, Lantzville councillors rejected a motion by Coun. Denise Haime to cut one-third of their remuneration.
According to Haime, the proposal was aimed at taking the wind out of the financial argument in a recent notice of motion, which calls for the size of council to be cut from seven to five members as a tax-saving measure.
The changes would have to get public approval and wouldn’t come into effect until the 2017 election, prompting Haime to ask, if there are financial concerns why is council waiting to make cuts?
The district could save $18,000 and preserve representation on council by reducing remuneration, she told councillors during an open committee of the whole meeting.
But Coun. Joe Bratkowski disagreed, pointing out that there needs to be a recognition of the work councillors do.
Mayor Jack de Jong said councillors shouldn’t have to see salaries reduced twice in a term. He later said he was ‘somewhat amused’ by the bid to cut wages when four years prior Haime voted for a significant pay hike.
In 2010, council opted to increase the mayor’s annual remuneration by 43 per cent over the year previous to $19,296. Councillors would have received a 37-per cent pay hike to $10,094, with the changes coming into full effect by 2012.
The scheduled increases were ‘overkill,’ de Jong said, adding the new council voted to downsize the mayor’s paycheck to $14,594 and councillors’ pay to $9,194.
The latest increase would have cut the cost to $9,444 and $6,159 – the lowest levels in the municipality’s 10-year history.
“[If you] look at comparative rates of every councillor and mayor in B.C., we are good.
“We are right at the … bottom end and you need to leave a bit on the table to create interest for people to run,” the mayor said, adding councillors deserve fair compensation. “So I think the whole concept of reducing it at this stage, after we had done it in 2012, is ill-conceived.”
De Jong also said the support to increase remuneration in one term and propose a reduction at the tail end of another is a flexibility that’s questionable.
“I think it was politically motivated,” he said.
Haime said while she feels remuneration is reasonable compared to other jurisdictions, her motion was meant to address the finances that seemed to be an issue during the proposal to reduce council’s size.
In an e-mail, she said that when “looking to reduce spending in order to get to a tax rate that is manageable by the taxpayer, the first place someone should look is council expenses. That is what I did. I will not apologize for it.”