Regional district directors this week unanimously voted not to consider a review of director’s annual salaries as part of the 2013 budget — with more than one acknowledging that a period of “belt tightening” isn’t the time to weigh a possible hike in pay for elected officials.
The decision to defer the budget item until 2014, reached at Monday’s (Feb. 18) Squamish-Lillooet Regional District’s (SLRD) Committee of the Whole meeting in Squamish, occurred in spite of the fact that SLRD director’s pay is far below the provincial average for regional district board members.
Debbie Demare, director for Electoral Area A near Lillooet, was the first to voice her desire to defer any discussion about board pay until at least next year.
“I don’t support any increase in any of the director’s remuneration this year,” Demare said. “If you look at our overall revenue from taxpayers, they’re all down. I don’t think this is a good year for something like that.”
Those who represent the district’s four rural electoral areas currently receive $10,004 in annual base pay plus $118 per meeting. The B.C. average is $15,488 in base salary. Those who represent Squamish, Whistler, Pemberton and Lillooet on the board receive $7,057, about $1,000 below the provincial average. The SLRD chair — currently Squamish director Patricia Heintzman — receives an additional $10,277 in base salary, less than half the B.C. average of $21,554.
After two other directors voiced their agreement with Demare’s position, Heintzman asked whether anyone wished to argue in favour of reviewing director’s pay in 2013. After no one responded, the board voted in favour of Demare’s motion to keep it the same for the time being.
After the vote, Demare said that if a review occurs as part of the 2014 budget process, any resulting increase shouldn’t take effect until 2015 — after the next municipal election. “That way we’re not seen to be doing it for ourselves,” she said.
Area C director Susie Gimse disagreed.
“The elected officials I’ve talked to all say the way to go is to increase the remuneration for the final year of your term. The reason for that is if it’s fresh in everyone’s mind, you go and face the electorate on that basis,” Gimse said, adding that after an election, the new board can then choose to revisit the issue early in its term.
ED funding tabled
The board also voted to defer a motion to allocate $50,000 to kick-start a joint economic development initiative in Lillooet and surrounding areas until after Demare, Area B director Mickey Macri and District of Lillooet officials have a chance to better define the objectives of such an initiative.
The three Lillooet-area directors, including Lillooet’s Marg Lampman, argued that such a “sub-regional” initiative is long overdue, adding that they favoured hiring a contractor to do the work over hiring a new staff member.
Macri made a motion to contribute $50,000 from the district’s feasibility fund for the initiative. Demare said a preliminary report on the service has been prepared and is to be discussed by the three Lillooet-area directors at a meeting next Thursday (Feb. 27).
The board voted to defer any action until after it has a chance to see the report and the three can meet and determine how best to move forward on the initiative.
“I see a willingness to work together to create a service, but I don’t see a proposal that everybody can look at and agree to,” Pemberton director Jordan Sturdy said.
By law, the SLRD is required to have a final 2013 budget approved by March 31.