The man who headed a citizens’ task force that recommended Kelowna council members should not get a pay raise for the next three years or a cost-of-living increase for next two says he’s not sure why it took council four months to accept the recommendations.
Len Pelland, who led the five-member task force that was appointed by council, was in the audience at Monday’s council meeting when his group’s report was finally adopted—four months after it was presented.
“I was concerned with the delay,” said Pelland outside council chambers late Monday afternoon.
He said while the report on pay for mayors and councillors of similar-sized municipalities in B.C., prepared for Abbotsford and considered by Kelowna council at the meeting, showed local politicians here are paid less than the average for their Lower Mainland counterparts and more than their Interior counterparts, he did not feel a pay hike was warranted here.
“I don’t believe they need to ‘catch up,’” said Pelland.
The task force, a version of which is struck in the third year of council’s mandate in Kelowna and recommends pay rates for the new council that will take office in December, recommended the mayor’s pay of just under $90,000 per year and the councillors’ salary of $31,000 per year be frozen until 2014.
That includes forgoing the usual cost of living increase that would be automatically tacked on each year during the mandate, in both 2012 and 2013.
While councillors accepted the wage freeze, some questioned the loss of the cost of living increase.
Coun. Robert Hobson called the move “a little punitive.”
“I don’t think its right to make that change now,” he said.
He also noted the discrepancy with other municipalities but shrugged it off as “the way it is.”
Coun. Luke Stack said he believes council members are fairly compensated here while Coun. Charlie Hodge reiterating that councillors never asked for a raise to begin with.
However, Coun. Graeme James took issue with another recommendation in the report, that the city offer the mayor a health benefits plan starting in 2014 that requires the mayor to pay half the premium.
He called that a “slap in the face to the position of mayor,” noting in Kelowna, unlike councillors, the mayor is a full-time employee of the city but will be treated differently than other full-time city employees who have all the medical health benefit premiums paid for.
But in the end, council voted to accept the recommendations of the task force, and Pelland even got an apology from Mayor Sharon Shepherd for the length of time it took council to finally get around to dealing with his group’s report.