By MEL ROTHENBURGER
Director, Electoral Area P, TNRD
Double-digit increases to TNRD directors’ stipends will go to the next regular board meeting for possible ratification following a debate Friday (Feb. 15, 2019).
Sitting as a committee of the whole, the board made the decision to send a proposal from staff forward for consideration. Several directors voted against the plan but the board as a whole supported it.
The previous board voted strongly against an 11.2 percent hike last July. The rates proposed Friday would range between about 10 per cent for some municipal directors to more than 18 per cent for some electoral area directors.
The report that prompted the move compared TNRD directors’ pay to that of nine other regional district boards that have increased their own stipends to compensate for the Trudeau government’s decision to eliminate a tax exemption on a third of the stipend paid to civic politicians.
The purpose of the tax break was to provide a “non-accountable” expense allowance. The other regional districts have increased their basic pay to make up for the change in tax rules.
“… Based on the average of the surrounding nine regional districts, the TNRD’s remuneration for Board Directors is now well below the overall group average,” the report stated. “Generally speaking each director is remunerated at a lower rate than those in the comparator group.”
I argued against the pay increase Friday on the grounds that most people don’t have the luxury of increasing their own pay cheques when taxes increase, and TNRD directors shouldn’t do it for themselves.
I also said there’s “no magic” in what other regional districts do, and that we should make the decision based on what we think is fair, not on comparisons with others. I proposed an amendment that the 2019 increase be based on the 2018 Consumer Price Index of 2.7 per cent, which has been the practice in past years.
However, my amendment was ruled out of order.
Director Merlin Blackwell, the mayor of Clearwater, also spoke against the bigger increase, saying that basing our own stipends on what other regional districts do sets up a “leapfrogging” situation in which we all chase each other.
As outlined in the report, changes to the remuneration bylaw would bring TNRD directors’ rates of pay up to the current average for each category of the other regional districts studied.
The base remuneration for electoral area directors would increase from $19,875 to $23,700 in 2019, and municipal directors would move from $13,028 to $14,400. That includes the CPI plus a one-time adjustment.
Electoral Area directors and those from outlying municipalities receive various levels of stipend on top of the base, or flat amount, depending on how far they live from the TNRD offices. Currently, EA directors receive between $21,031 and $24,391 depending on where they live, while municipal directors’ stipends range from $13,068 to $15,888.
If the new bylaw is passed, board Chair Ken Gillis would get $22,600 on top of his EA director’s pay as compared to $19,225 in 2018. Vice Chair Bill Kershaw would move from $2,338 to $4,500.
The intent of this year’s increase is to be “one time,” after which increases would return to the CPI in future years, the report said.
In addition to the stipend increases, the proposal would also increase per meeting rates from $150 per meeting to $160. Directors receive extra per-meeting pay for certain meetings such as committees that are in addition to other regular meetings.
The report said the per-meeting rate has not been changed since 2015.
The recommendations are expected to come up for discussion again at the board’s March 14 meeting.