Tom Murray wants council and senior staff in Pitt Meadows to forgo pay increases this year

Tom Murray wants council and senior staff in Pitt Meadows to forgo pay increases this year

Pitt council passes on no pay raises

Tom Murray asks Pitt Meadows council and senior staff to forgo their raises this year

A Pitt Meadows senior who spearheaded a petition calling for no tax increase in 2013 asked on Tuesday for council to forgo a pay raise.

Tom Murray made the pitch just after council gave three readings to a financial plan bylaw approving a 3.1 per cent residential tax increase for this year.

“There is no doubt I am not everyone’s favourite person, but I feel like I must continue my saga in order to honour my fellow residents in Pitt Meadows,” Murray told the semi-circle of civic officials seated in front of him.

Murray, who collected 1,300 signatures on the petition, noted all he wanted was to see what a zero per cent tax increase would look like.

“We simply wanted to see if it was at all possible. This was not produced. It has been a great disappointment,” he added.

“Since zero percent was not shown, I would like to propose that mayor, council and senior staff not receive raises at all this year. Are you willing to accept this?”

Mayor Deb Walters replied, saying freezing wages for council and senior staff was a topic that had not been previously discussed.

When pressed by Murray to commit to a wage freeze, Walters politely declined.

“That would be a discussion for another day, Mr. Murray. I am not prepared to do that at this time,” she said.

According to financial statements released by the City of Pitt Meadows, the mayor’s salary saw an increase of $16,000 from 2008 to 2010, climbing to $63,220 from $47,160.

In the same period, councillors saw a $7,217 increase, from $17,544 in 2008 to $24,761.

Financial documents for 2012 have not been released, yet. But according to the Pitt Meadows director of finance, councillors made $24,780 in 2012, while the mayor made $66,081.

Salary rates for council are adjusted each year according to a formula based on the median of the published salary of all Metro Vancouver mayors for the immediately preceding year.

The formula was put into place in 2008 following the recommendations of an independent committee of citizens.

Unlike the mayor, Coun. Janis Elkerton voiced her support at the meeting for Murray’s proposal for a wage freeze, as Maple Ridge council did in 2012.

“I think we should be looking at anything that will reduce the budget and setting an example by leadership,” said Elkerton.

Tax increase passes

Support for a 3.1 per cent property tax increase was not unanimous.

Mayor Deb Walters cast the deciding vote in a 4-3 split, which saw councillors Bruce Bell, Janis Elkerton and Dave Murray vote against it.

“The economy is not in good shape,” said Bell.

“I know in Pitt Meadows we have a median family income of $56,000, so I thought we could do a little bit better and perhaps next year we can sharpen the pencil a little bit further. But this year it wasn’t quite enough for me.”

Coun. Murray also wanted a tax increase than was lower than three per cent.

“We are in an economic downturn and our city is not experiencing any other growth,” he said Tuesday.

“There are not very many people getting a 3.1 per cent pay increase. People are being told to hold the line.”

Coun. Gwen O’Connell acknowledged it was difficult to raise property taxes, but has a “clear conscience” while supporting the 2013 budget.

“I think that we gave a realistic budget” she said.

“Things haven’t changed much in Pitt Meadows. Our staff aren’t flying all over the world looking at how sewer systems work, council doesn’t fly to Germany to bring people here to work. We are busy trying to get jobs and then we are criticized for getting 250 jobs. I don’t know what we can do to make everybody happy.”