Kelowna’s local politicians didn’t express much appetite for a personal pay hike when the topic of a wages and expenses review came up during Monday’s council meeting, but some did say they think public office should come with benefits.
“Short of being impeached we are here for three years and I think a benefit package should be made available,” said Coun. Charlie Hodge, as city councillors debated creating a task force to look at the issue.
The task force, and related review, usually comes up during the last year of a term, so any changes in pay can be accounted for by the time the next round of politicians are elected.
Currently councillors make $30,765 and the mayor takes in $87,902, which city staff say is on par with municipalities of like size. Benefits haven’t been included in their wages historically, as public office isn’t considered a full-time job.
One-third of their wages are, however, tax-free, said Coun. Andre Blanleil, who argued those savings could be used to purchase a benefits plan.
“We are asking everyone to tighten their belts, and we are asking them to be frugal, and this isn’t a good time,” he said, adding he’d like the status quo to be maintained, and that a review was unnecessary.
“I don’t see that this is a time to look at any increase of (wages) or benefits.”
To that Coun. Robert Hobson said the simple practice of having an outside body examine the issue is something he holds up to other municipalities as the most ideal way to address political pay issues.
“I think it’s best to be proactive and review every three years,” he said, pointing out a review doesn’t necessarily mean a wage hike. “When we looked at the regional district, we had a change downward…I think our practice is a good one, but the important thing is the regularity in which you address the issue.”
Weighing in on the benefits issue specifically, Hobson and Coun. Graeme James said they agreed it’s an issue that should be examined .
The panel that reviews politicians’ wages consists of three appointees. Mayor Sharon Shepherd said there will be a call to the public to see if there is anyone who would like to sit on the task force.