Pitt Meadows council nixes bid to cancel seven-per-cent wage hike

Coun. Janice Elkerton asks for cancellation, but more talk next month

A request to suspend a Pitt Meadows bylaw that gives council a seven-per-cent pay raise this year was denied Tuesday, with members deciding instead to discuss the increase next month.

Coun. Janice Elkerton failed to get support for a motion Tuesday, calling for the city to disregard the bylaw and maintain council salaries at 2012 levels.

“Since we instructed staff to produce a zero-per-cent budget, I felt we should lead by example and take a zero increase in our indemnity,” said Elkerton.

“This is public service remuneration – not a salary. “

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.

The pay increases were not determined by council, but recommended by an independent committee, which drafted the bylaw.

Pitt Meadows council  salaries have risen 50 per cent over six years.

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

Councillors are set to make $26,574, compared to $17,544 in 2008.

Elkerton’s council colleagues agreed, this year’s pay increase was  too much. But none supported her motion.

They voted to discuss the pay increase in December, during business planning sessions to determine the 2014 budget.

City chief administrative officer Kim Grout told council there were legal issues at play.

The city’s lawyer advised council that suspending the bylaw was not appropriate “as it would create legal uncertainty as to financial rights and obligations from an accounting/audit perspective”.

Elkerton didn’t support referring the pay increase to business planning because she believes it will be too late for council to return the money by then.

“Business planning is a month away. If you send it off to referral, it’s going to death’s door.”

Elkerton’s motion was characterized as “political grandstanding” by her council colleague Gwen O’Connell, who said she was “disgusted” by it.

“I personally will never apologize for what I get paid,” added O’Connell.

“I work pretty darn hard for the city.”

Coun. Tracy Miyashita stressed that council was not giving itself a raise.

“I want to be very clear to the public because this is going to be spun … It’s the bylaw taking effect.

“Maybe the bylaw needs reviewing and we need to have a really good discussion of that,” she said.

Council intends to review the bylaw next year and form another independent committee in 2014 to determine salaries, a move recommended by Coun. Doug Bing and Coun. Dave Murray.

“I don’t think council should throw out the bylaw,” Bing said.

Mayor Deb Walters believed that Elkerton’s motion was directed at her.

“I do work full-time on this job. I really do believe this was directed at me, personally, and I don’t appreciate that,” she said at the meeting.

Pitt Meadows isn’t the only city uncomfortable with rising salaries for its politicians. Maple Ridge council won’t be getting any increases this term after their salaries became an issue during the 2011 civic election.

Coun. Bruce Bell intends to ask his colleagues to donate a percentage of this year’s seven per cent increase back to the city for its centennial celebrations in 2014.

“We could donate the equivalent of four or 4.5 per cent so our raise would be around 2.5 per cent, similar to the Consumer Price Index,” Bell explained.

“That way everybody can choose to do that or not.”

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