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Kelowna council still divided over pay increase

Council voted 5-4 in favour of salary increases as recommended by staff
Kelowna City Hall. (Gary Barnes/Capital News)

More debate at council’s Monday (April 8) meeting about whether or not to accept a pay raise.

Adjustments made since council last discussed the matter on March 25 include an opt-out clause for councillors opposed to the hike.

Councillor Gord Lovegrove, who voted against the increase, started Monday’s debate with a plea to his colleagues.

“Do we really need this, and if you do bless ya, but my answer is no.”

Lovegrove added he plans to donate his increase in salary to community charities.

“I ask my fellow councillors to think about joining me.”

Lovegrove made a motion to scrap the opt-out clause but it was defeated.

Councillors Rick Webber and Mohini Singh also voted against the increase at the Mar 25 meeting.

Webber said it doesn’t make sense for any councillor to opt out.

“It wasn’t what I wanted but I’m not going to sit around for the next two-and-half years making 35 per cent less than my fellow councillors. How can you have a council where everybody is making different money?”

Singh also voted against the proposed increase.

“Council has made its decision and I will follow it,” she said. “I’m not opposed to a raise but would like to see a modest increase.”

Coun. Loyal Wooldridge, who was not at the Mar 25 meeting but was in favour of the increase, said it is not a popular political decision.

“Because $42,000 a year to do what we’re doing, and build equity and accessibility in these seats is not a real option,” he added.

A recent review of 12 municipalities by the City of Victoria, which Kelowna took part in, identified the mayor’s remuneration as lower than all municipalities except Kamloops.

Councillor remuneration was last.

“There’s no right reason why councillors should be sitting at the lowest paid individuals throughout all of those cities and the mayor sitting as the second lowest,” Mayor Tom Dyas said.

The report found Kelowna council had fallen considerably behind other municipalities because raises have been based on the Vancouver Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the last several years.

The recommended salary increase for the mayor is the 60th percentile of the communities in the Victoria study, with councillors receiving 40 per cent of the mayor’s remuneration.

Once approved, council will be getting their new salaries in steps, with the mayor receiving $135,848 and councillors getting $50,535 upon adoption of the remuneration bylaw.

Effective January 1, 2025, the mayor will receive $145,200 and councillors $58,080.

Coun. Ron Cannan had made a motion to defer a decision on the increases and have an independent body look into the issue.

“Just because the Local Government Act allows you to raise your own salary I don’t believe that’s appropriate,” he said. “There’s some movement trying to have the Charter changed so councils don’t have that option.”

Cannan added he hasn’t decided yet if he will opt out or donate his increase to charity.

The deferral motion was defeated and Cannan voted with Webber, Singh and Lovegrove in opposing the pay hike.

Council gave the remuneration bylaw three readings but it still needs to be adopted, at a future meeting, for the increase to take effect.

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Gary Barnes

About the Author: Gary Barnes

Journalist and broadcaster for three decades.
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