Regional District of Central Kootenay directors won’t change the amount they pay themselves to attend meetings, at least for now.
It follows a lengthy debate last week stirred by chair John Kettle, who suggested they forgo their stipends for attending three major local government conferences.
Kettle began the discussion by suggesting they were among the most highly compensated regional districts in the province, and noted they switched to a monthly salary a few years ago so directors wouldn’t create meetings just to get paid.
They still receive stipends for attending board and committee meetings as well as meetings of other boards they’re appointed to and the annual conferences of the Union of BC Municipalities, Federation of Canadian Municipalities, and Association of Kootenay Boundary Local Governments.
“This is a double dip,” Kettle said, noting it cost about $65,000 to send directors to the three conferences last year. “We deserve fair compensation, but we’re already paid to attend meetings.”
Most other directors argued it is well worth the expense, and they try to be frugal.
Rural Salmo director Hans Cunningham said while it sounds like a lot of money, it works out to about $1 per year per person in the regional district, and “we do get our money’s worth.”
“I defy anyone to go to [the conferences] and make the stipend work,” Nelson mayor John Dooley said. “I seek out reasonably priced meals. I know from my experience I’m on the negative end when I come back.”
“Most times when I go to meetings it’s covered by the City,” stated Castlegar Mayor and RDCKdirector Lawrence Chernoff. “So that’s a difference for me.” Where the mayor feels the stipend for attending functions is most worthwhile, he said, is for the rural directors.
“I think it comes out of general administration, that fund,” he said. “The idea was that these people (rural directors) wouldn’t be able (otherwise) to go.
“I think it’s important from that point of view because it’s nice for everyone to participate at that level.”
Directors also had a broader debate about their pay packages, with several suggesting any decrease would prevent potential candidates from running for office.
“It would rule a lot of people out,” Dooley said. “You will eliminate women and young people who can’t afford to participate in local government. We don’t need to apologize for our stipends or expenses. I’m not ashamed of what we get compensated.”
However, Salmo mayor Ann Henderson said with the state of the world economy, “something has to be adjusted,” and suggested she would ask her own council to tighten their belts.
Rural Kaslo director Andy Shadrack said he was “torn” on the issue.
“I agree the world economy is not good but when I look around the table, I see only one member below 40 [years old], and maybe one other below 50.”
Shadrack noted his newly-appointed alternate, Aimee Watson, is in her 30s, and he hopes she will run to succeed him in three years, but “I know how hard it is to serve.”
Rural Nelson director Ramona Faust said until recently she was one of the few on the board with another job, and used holiday time to attend local government conferences.
She found it ultimately impractical, however, to do both, so gave up her other position.
She feels attending meetings such as the waste committee is part of a director’s job and shouldn’t need extra compensation, but she would be less likely to accept appointments to external groups without pay.
East Shore director Garry Jackman agreed.
“Not everyone is on the same number of committees. Those who step forward and do more should get more,” he said, suggesting stipends be dispensed with for common committees, but retained for unique appointments.
Ultimately the board didn’t pass any motions.
RDCK PAY STUB
The nine municipal directors each receive a base salary of $1,006 per month, and the 11 rural directors $2,593 each. The chair receives an additional $2,467 per month and the vice-chair an extra $214. The rates are adjusted annually based on the consumer price index.
Directors or their alternates can also claim $316 per board meeting attended, $200 per committee meeting, and $117 for other meetings.
They are reimbursed for travel at 57 cents per kilometre, and for meals to a maximum of $66 per day while on the road for board business. Accommodation is also covered when they attend conferences.
Several directors last week cited instances where they have not claimed stipends or expenses for various reasons.
– Greg Nesteroff, Black Press, with files from Jim Sinclair