Politicians at the Fraser Valley Regional District voted to tie their future pay increases to the average wages in the region, but not before giving major pay hike to directors who represent rural areas and for the FVRD chair.
The new policy comes on the heels of a two-phase pay increase at the FVRD which had significantly increased the total pay for politicians on the board in recent years.
(Total pay increased 40 per cent between 2014 and 2016; eight percentage points of that increase was due to the addition of an eighth electoral area director.)
After the increase, the amount the regional government spends on politicians’ salary will have risen about 79 per cent from 2014.
Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said he remained unhappy with the process that led to the pay hike. Braun had wanted the FVRD to put the future of politician compensation in the hands of a citizens’ committee, as Abbotsford had done last year.
“I still think we had a real opportunity to be much more open and transparent,” he said.
By linking future remuneration with residents’ average wages, the FVRD policy mimics one implemented by Abbotsford at the recommendation of its citizens’ committee that sets councillors wages at 75 per cent of residents’ salaries.
But when it came for the FVRD to set its current rates – and thus the percentage of residents’ incomes going forward – Braun said the board used comparisons with other regional districts.
He likened that move to a “hamster logic” in which salaries across the regions continually get increased as each hike makes a new area suddenly seem underpaid. Those feelings were shared by Abbotsford Coun. Ross Siemens, who also sits on the FVRD board.
Braun won’t be receiving a $7,500 top-up that staff had originally suggested he should get as chair of the Fraser Valley Regional Hospital District.
Such a top-up, he had said, wouldn’t have been deserved given the amount of time he devotes to chairing the meetings.
On Monday, he said he had never been asked about such an increase by the consultant who proposed the hike.
However, the acting chair of the board will receive $2,000 when he or she takes charge in Braun’s absence.
Directors for Abbotsford, Chilliwack and other municipalities which send councillors to FVRD board meetings will see only a minor pay increase, from $11,765 to $11,900 per year.
But directors who represent electoral areas for which they are the only elected representative will receive a 54 per cent pay hike, from $19,522 to $30,000, with the chair of the electoral area services committee to receive another $10,000 on top of that.
Those increases will only be paid by residents of the electoral areas, who will be on the hook for an extra $2 to $10 each year.
As the FVRD’s current chair, Chilliwack Coun. Jason Lum is also set to see his remuneration increase, with his total FVRD pay rising 22 per cent from $27,425 to $33,661 per year.
Abbotsford Coun. Patricia Ross won’t be receiving an increase in her $6,700 top-up for serving as vice-chair.
Lum said he was happy with the new pay policy.
“It’s a good process and I think it’s a good policy in terms of taking into account the realities in the region,” he said.