Metro Vancouver board members have backtracked on a bylaw that gave them a retirement allowance and a pay raise.
Friday, the board voted unanimously to oppose the 10.2 per cent retroactive allowance and 15 per cent pay raise that was approved in March after being suggested by the organization’s finance committee.
The reversal decision followed public criticism over the initial vote that led board chair, Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore, to describe the new bylaw as a mistake and announce a plan to bring forward a reconsideration bylaw.
White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin and Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner were among board members who had supported the initial bylaw.
Hepner was not available to comment by press time as to why she changed her mind, but told Peace Arch News following criticism of last month’s vote that while she supported “having something in place that recognizes long service,” she felt the process could have been better.
Baldwin last month had emphasized to PAN that the retirement allowance was not a pension, but “a one-time payment made upon leaving the board and public office.” He also noted that remuneration of elected officials in White Rock is “modest and in line with” other Lower Mainland municipalities.
Tuesday, he said that while the 15 per cent increase “made sense, and… wouldn’t have affected me at all,” the retirement-allowance aspect of the original bylaw “kind of came out of the blue.”
Board members were not aware that the remuneration bylaw was even on the agenda until the last minute, he added, and the decision that day was “all of it or none of it.”
“We just had to take it on good faith,” he told PAN.
The retirement allowance would have amounted to about $1,100 per year of service for all members who choose to leave or are not re-elected, going back to 2007, and about $1,500 per year going forward.
The cost to Metro Vancouver taxpayers would be about $498,000 in retroactive retirement earnings, and $62,500 per year going forward, as part of the regional district’s annual budget.
Board members receive a per-meeting stipend for the part-time position of $387 for meetings up to four hours, and $775 for meetings over four hours.
The pay raise was to compensate for recent changes to federal legislation that will see a portion of municipal politicians’ pay taxed as income.
Baldwin – who announced earlier this year that he would not seek re-election this fall – noted the pay increase wasn’t going to take effect until after the new term started.
“I basically thought (at the time), why not? On the whole, I don’t like voting on things like that.”
At Friday’s meeting, Moore said the board “should be applauded for actually listening to the public after making a decision instead of putting our heads down and plowing on.”
Vancouver Coun. Andrea Reimer, who mentioned her $90,000 salary, said that while remuneration is needed, it doesn’t have to be so attractive to convince people to join public office, but instead be “fair and reasonable.”
But Delta Mayor Lois Jackson said being on the board does come at a cost, when trying to balance those duties with running a local government.
“It’s not cheap. You have to give up your job basically to work here,” Jackson said.
Baldwin agreed, describing a mayor’s role as a full-time job that doesn’t help the families of those who take it on, in terms of health and other benefits.
People like Moore “have basically given up the best, most productive earning years of their lives” to public service, he said.
Members on Friday passed a new motion, introduced by Moore, to direct staff to create a third-party review panel and initiate a review of other regional districts on how they handle remuneration and benefits.
The results of that review would be brought back after the October election.