Fraser Valley Regional District office on Cheam Avenue in Chilliwack. Paul Henderson/black press

Fraser Valley Regional District politicians vote for pay bump, but uncertainty remains

Chair says plan will tie all directors to residents’ income; Abbotsford mayor says otherwise

A day after Fraser Valley Regional District politicians voted on a possible pay bump for themselves, key figures involved disagreed on what exactly had been agreed upon.

Staff had suggested three options to the board, each of which referred to pay at other regional districts, with top-ups for serving on, and chairing, a variety of committees. The proposal came less than a year after The News reported total pay for FVRD politicians had risen 40 per cent over two years.

FVRD chair Jason Lum told The News Thursday that the board eventually went in a fourth direction, with staff directed to prepare a bylaw that would tie future increases in base pay for all directors to the average incomes of FVRD residents. He said the idea is similar to one adopted by Abbotsford council last fall that set pay for council at 75 per cent of the average full-time worker’s income. FVRD base rates would be lower than that under the proposal, and electoral area directors – who serve as the main elected representative for their rural areas – will get more than councillors which represent municipalities like Chilliwack and Abbotsford, Lum said.

Lum said plan recognizes the time spent by directors and the incomes of the community they serve, Lum.

But Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said he left the meeting thinking that while base rates for electoral area directors will be tied to average incomes, municipal directors’ pay would be based on those of politicians serving on other regional districts.

Braun wanted to convene a group of distinguished local residents to suggest a pay scheme – as Abbotsford had done – but his motion to do so was defeated. He said linking all directors’ pay to that of constituents is ideal, but did not believe that was the motion passed Wednesday.

“I was disappointed in where we ended up,” he said. “It has to be based on something that’s defensible … I don’t think that was served (Wednesday).”

Braun said the FVRD’s pay increase will likely be used by politicians serving elsewhere to justify their own raises.

He was also unhappy with top-ups, one of which will more than double the $3,300 he currently gets for chairing the Fraser Valley Regional Hospital District, on top of his pay as a municipal director.

Braun called that top-up “ridiculous,” and said the time he spends on the role doesn’t justify that extra pay.

“A lot of this stuff overlaps with my duties as mayor,” he said.

A bylaw will now be drafted and sent back to the board for final approval.

First, though, staff will have to figure out what happened. FVRD spokesperson Jennifer Kinneman said there were so many motions Wednesday, a rundown of those approved wasn’t available the following morning.

“Our corporate administration staff will be reviewing their notes and preparing the minutes, which will reflect all the motions,” she said. Because discussion took place in a committee of the whole, rather than a formal board meeting, the meeting was not recorded on video. Individual votes were also not recorded. Lum said the committee of the whole was held to give time for all directors to have a say.

It’s unclear how much the amount the FVRD spends on politicians’ pay will rise. Lum would only confirm a staff report that said changes would increase taxes between one and 65 cents per household per year. Given the number of households in the region, that figure would work out to between about $1,100 and $75,000 per year.

A more precise number, Lum said, would be available when the bylaw returns to the board for approval.

Either way, it won’t have a huge impact on the regional district’s bottom line, with politician pay accounting for less than three per cent of the FVRD budget.


@ty_olsen
tolsen@abbynews.com

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