Mayors Nicole Read and John Becker revisit retroactive retiring allowance in a few weeks. (THE NEWS/files)

Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadow mayors take a second look at retirement allowance

Metro Vancouver board of directors reconsiders lump-sum payment

Both local mayors have said they’ll take a second look after they backed the 15-per-cent pay increase and retirement allowance for Metro Vancouver board directors last month.

Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read and Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker both voted yes to the motion at the March 23 Metro Vancouver board meeting.

The 15-per-cent raise was for 2019 only and was to compensate for federal tax changes that remove the income tax exemptions of a third on municipal elected officials’ salaries.

The retirement allowance was to apply retroactively to present and past directors (back to 2007), giving them all a lump-sum payment when they left the Metro board.

“I’m happy to reconsider it, especially the retroactive part of it,” said Read.

She wouldn’t say if she’ll reverse her vote, however.

“I’ll have to see what my colleagues say. I have to always remain objective until I get to the table.”

Read said she wasn’t surprised by the public opposition, especially to the retroactive increase. Having a retirement allowance apply only to future departures may have earned a more positive reception, she added.

Nevertheless, politicians’ pay is an “important conversation,” said Read.

Maple Ridge staff are also preparing a report on raising salaries for Maple Ridge politicians, as a result of the federal tax changes.

Becker agreed that the wages created a “firestorm” of public reaction.

He noted that the individual votes at Metro Vancouver board meetings are never recorded, adding that even if directors don’t put up their hands, their vote is counted as a yes.

Neither mayor knew exactly what they would receive as their retiring allowance. Specific examples are not cited in the staff report.

Metro Vancouver reconsiders the issue at its April 27 meeting.

Retroactive amounts would work out to about $1,100 per year for directors.

If both local mayors are no longer on the board after next October’s elections, they each would receive a retirement allowance of about $4,400. Both have been on the board since 2015.

Going forward, starting in 2019, the per-year calculation would be $1,560 per director, per year.

Read has said she’s not running for re-election, while Becker remains undecided.

Becker said directors are supposed to be voting on the merits of issues, and added that it is difficult for many politicians to re-enter the private sector and restart their careers.

“I’m prepared to be persuaded that this is not a good idea or that’s it’s something that’s not needed.”

But he’s not sure how he’ll vote.

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