Castlegar city council has begun the process of setting salaries for the next mayor and council to go into effect after the fall election.
Recommendations from the Council Remuneration Committee were debated at the Committee of the Whole meeting on June 13.
Council decided to approve a salary increase above the committee’s recommendations of paying the mayor $34,800 and councillors $17,500.
If the bylaw remains unchanged before final adoption, the mayor’s annual salary will increase by $4000 to $36,000.
Councilor’s salaries will increase by $2,000 to $18,000.
Councillor Dan Rye, who will not be running in the next election and will not benefit from the increase, brought the suggestion to the table.
Even with the increase, Castlegar city councillors will still be earning less than their counterparts in many comparable municipalities. Councillors in Nelson are paid $25,000, in Grand Forks they get $20,000, pay is $18,525 in Trail and in Cranbrook councillors are paid $23,700. Councillors in Kimberley ($15,972) and Rossland ($15,000) are paid less.
The mayor’s $36,000 salary will be more than the mayors of Kimberley ($31,944), Grand Forks ($30,000) and Rossland ($30,000) — all municipalities with much smaller populations than Castlegar — but will be lower than Nelson ($59,000) Trail ($39,425) and Cranbrook ($65,000).
The above figures are current as of now, but some of the municipalities are reviewing pay prior to the election so there may be increases in the comparison municipalities.
Councillor Maria McFaddin voted against the increase. Mayor Kirk Duff and Councillor Brian Bogle were not at the meeting, but the remaining councillors all voted to keep the allowance.
The committee also recommended doing away with a $1500 allowance that councilors can use once during a term to purchase things needed for the job such as technology upgrades and appropriate clothing.
The committee suggested the grant was not equitable since minimal claims were made in the last term and the majority of councillors did not claim the full amount. They also cited the provision of city-issued iPads for councilors as an additional reason. The committee recommended a further increase to stipends instead.
However, council decided against the recommendation on the grounds that the grant was needed to encourage people of all economic backgrounds to run for council.
Councillor Rye listed the potential need to upgrade one’s internet, cell phones, cell phone plans and wardrobes as reasons to keep the fund.
“I think if our mission is to get younger people involved, we have to have a few incentives to get them to sit on council,” said Councillor Sue Heaton-Sherstibitoff.
Councillor Bergen Price pointed out that the shoes and pants that he was wearing to the meeting were purchased through the grant and thought keeping it would encourage more people to run for council.
Councilors also pointed out that this type of grant is common in most cities with grants ranging from $2500 – $5000 and that many cities actually provide cell phones for their council, which Castlegar does not.
All the councillors present voted to keep the allowance.
Council also approved another committee recommendation that beginning in January 2024 the annual indemnities for the mayor and councillors will be increased by an amount equal to the percentage increase of the B.C. Consumers Price Index for the previous year.
Council pay is governed by bylaw, so this vote was just the first step in the process.