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Updated: City request to bring regional district stipend increases ‘in line’ passed over by board

The RDCK board of directors did not comment or discuss action in its regular meeting on Dec. 9 concerning a letter sent by the City of Nelson noting that the Sept. 23 increase to the director stipend followed a “long, historic pattern” of increases to director stipends — TND file photo.

A request to get remuneration increases for the regional district directors in line with neighbouring boards was ignored during the last board of directors meeting.

The Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) board of directors did not comment or discuss action in its regular meeting on Dec. 9 concerning a letter sent by Nelson Mayor John Dooley on Nov. 22 — on behalf of city council — noting that the Sept. 23 increase to the director stipend followed a “long, historic pattern” of increases to director stipends.

“These increases and the resulting overall remuneration don’t seem to be in line with our neighbouring regional districts or municipal remuneration budgets,” he wrote.

Dooley noted that the cost of the RDCK board’s remuneration was in excess of $1 million each year.

In September the board approved a chair monthly stipend jump of $63 per month, to $3,352, vice chair stipend by $18 (to $670), rural affairs chair by $509 (to $795) and the resource recovery chair increased by $111 ($397).

In the letter from Nelson, Dooley said budgetary increases were necessary at times for local governments.

“(H)owever these increases should be carefully considered, adopted only when essential, and supported with transparent reasoning and analysis,” he wrote. “We hope that the RDCK board agrees with these principles and will consider them as future budgetary increases are considered.”

Despite the concern raised, the board later discussed an amendment to Remuneration Bylaw concerning increases to maternity, parental and elder care leave, as well as the coverage for child care expenses.

The recommendation would include childcare expenses up to a maximum of $80 per month, per child would have an indeterminate impact, said Stuart Horn, RDCK chief administrative officer in his report to the board, but for each qualifying child it would be $960 per year for five years.

“The intent of the Select Committee considering the recommendations around leave and childcare was to encourage a younger demographic to run for office,” he said in his report.

The amendment was not an increase in base stipends, noted Select Committee member Tom Newell, with the director base still untouched at $3,457 per month for a rural director and $1,341 for a municipal director.

Instead, it was done as a “best practices” increase to the amounts, in line with what the Union of B.C. Municipalities recommended.

Nelson director Janice Morrison re-iterated the contents of the earlier letter from the city.

“In the letter we questioned the remuneration for directors at this time,” she began. “(But) the issue that struck us at the City of Nelson was how out of line we are with stipends and committee remunerations compared to other regional districts in the area.

“Yes, it could be a best practices recommendation, but we do pay here quite well, whether it be a stipend or a committee remuneration.”

Area I director Andy Davidoff agreed, opposing any increase in the stipends, particularly in the electoral areas.

“We are looking at massive taxation issues and how are we going to address them?” he asked the board. “Every single service of the 18 we are looking at, there is something there that we are going to be looking at as a potential cost increase.

“I cannot, in good conscience, vote in favour of any remuneration increases given the taxation pressure we are facing in this upcoming budget.”

The matter was referred back to the remuneration committee for further discussion.

• The RDCK chair, director and alternate directors Remuneration Bylaw will be reviewed by the board (or if desired, a select committee) in February of the year of each local government election, with any changes to take effect after the election, on Jan. 1 of the following year.

Note: this story was corrected from an earlier version which reported the amendment as passed.