A part of the City of Revelstoke’s budget discussions this year will be the possibility of raises for the mayor and council.
Brought forward by Coun. Cody Younker at the first 2020 budget meeting on Nov. 7, a resolution called for a $10,000 raise for each councillor and a $45,000 raise for mayor, to be implemented over three years.
Council voted in favour by bring the motion forward during budget talks, with the lone opposition vote coming from Coun. Steven Cross.
“If we need to spend money on something else, then it will be cut,” said Revelstoke Mayor Gary Sulz.
Younker based his proposal on what the City of Nelson is paying their council, with a higher amount for the mayor because, as he put it, the cost of living is higher in Revelstoke than in Nelson.
“It’s my belief that we need to pay our mayor to be a full-time mayor, not to be a part-time mayor,” Younker said.
According to Younker, the mayor works full-time, on top of running his own business.
If the mayor were to be paid a living wage for his role, Younker argued, he would have more time to communicate with the public, attend more events and not be mentally drained.
Younker also brought forward the motion in hopes that more candidates would run for council at the next municipal election in 2022.
In his dissenting vote, Cross said he had four problems with the proposal.
“I find myself offended that Councillor Younker doesn’t think we are giving maximum effort just because we aren’t being paid more,” Cross said.
He also pointed out that $25,000 a year is still a part-time position.
“If you want to increase me to $100,000, now we’re talking,” he said.
His third concern was the proposed pay gap between mayor and council.
“I know the mayor works more, but my vision of mayor and council would be a lot more teamwork,” he said.
Lastly, Cross said he doesn’t believe the mayor or council have earned a raise.
“I would be willing to have this discussion if we had really proved ourselves to our citizens,” he said.
“We’ve done a lot of great work this year at this council and I think we are making a lot of great changes.
“We have more to get done before I am prepared to go to our citizens and say we have earned a raise.”
Coun. Nicole Cherlet said she was in favour of the proposal, as it is important to show respect for the role and hopefully raises would have more councillors seeking to serve multiple terms.
Raises would set a standard and an expectation, Cherlet said.
Coun. Michael Brooks-Hill said he fundamentally agreed with Younker’s proposal, but didn’t think the mayor should be paid more than double what the councillors receive.
In 2018, city councillors were paid $12,500 each and the mayor was paid $25,300, plus expenses.
This year, that number will increase slightly, even in the base budget, because the federal government has removed a tax exemption for municipal officials and there will be an increase to compensate for increased taxation, said Revelstoke director of finance Tania McCabe.
Coun. Jackie Rhind said she liked the phased-in approach, so that the impact of the raises wouldn’t be felt in only one year.
“Right now the tricky thing with this position is people working full-time,” she said.
They are already stretched thin, there is a limit to what people can do, she added.
Howeverm she agreed with Cross and Brooks-Hill that an increase to $70,000 for the mayor seemed high.
Coun. Rob Elliott said that the job becomes a burden when councillors end up volunteering their time above and beyond what they are getting paid.
“I think it is a matter of respect,” Elliott said.
“Ultimately nobody is doing this job for the money.”
Sulz was also in favour of Younker’s proposal.
“There is a lot of people coming forward saying, ‘These are things that I want to propose to the community.How can we work together?,’” he said.
“I feel like I am putting in the time.”
However, he said it comes down to where the money will make the most difference.
He plans on looking at what will happen if council gets a raise, feeling something else will have to be deferred to accommodate the added cost.
Doing things a little bit differently this year, in this budget meeting, city staff presented the proposed corporate administration budget as well as the proposed finance and IT department budgets.
Council will see other department budgets at future meetings for inclusion in the development of the 2020-2034 Long Term Financial Plan.
From there, McCabe will put together a draft budget that council will get to review before final approval.