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Pitt Meadows says no to councillors' salary committee

Pitt Meadows council won’t be forming a committee to review escalating council salaries over fears the group might recommend an increase.

A council motion to establish an independent committee to investigate how to compensate elected officials was defeated at a committee meeting Tuesday in a three-three split vote.

Instead, council voted to adjust its remuneration annually on Jan. 1, this year onwards, based on the Consumer Price Index for Metro Vancouver for the preceding year, a formula which was followed prior to 2008.

However, some councillors believe that the city is just postponing an inevitable and necessary review.

“At some point in time, it will have to be done,” said Mayor Deb Walters.

She was in favour of forming an independent review committee, a were Couns. Gwen O’Connell and Tracy Miyashita.

“It should be done for transparency. It’s a really good exercise for the public to see where the money is going.”

As per the Council Indemnity Bylaw, created by a committee of residents in 2008, council salaries are reviewed on Jan. 1 each year.

The mayor’s salary is then adjusted to 75 per cent of the published median salary of all Metro Vancouver mayors for the preceding year, while councillors make 37.5 per cent of the mayor’s salary.

Since the last review, however, Pitt Meadows council salaries have risen 50 per cent.

In 2013, the mayor earned $70,864, compared to $47,160 in 2008.

Councillors made $26,574, compared to $17,544 in 2008.

From 2012 to 2013, salaries went up seven per cent, causing councillors to recommend the city review them or disregard the bylaw.

Walters said an independent committee would have been able to properly investigate compensation, including issues such as education expenses, pensions and health benefits.

She acknowledged that the committee could have returned with a recommendation to hike wages, but that’s just speculation.

“But you can say you appreciate the work they did and take some points of it. You don’t have to implement all of it,” she added.

Miyashita agreed.

“It removed us from the equation when there was a citizen’s group,” she said, echoing the mayor’s comments about transparency.

Miyashita’s colleagues pointed out that the citizen’s committee was formed in 2007 because council salaries had not increased in 12 years and had fallen far behind their Metro counterparts.

“It seems like we have caught up now,” said Coun. Bruce Bell.

“So why would we want to waste citizens’ time? I think we are adequately paid for what we do.”

Coun. Janis Elkerton sees her role as councillor as a public service.

“I don’t think of it as a salary,” she said, adding she was worried that a committee could have returned with recommendations for another increase or more benefits.

“We’ve already been adjusted up. The Consumer Price Index would keep it in synch.”

Council will formally vote on the motion to match wages increases to the Consumer Price Index at a regular meeting Tuesday.

 

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