Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Nanaimo Council Pay Raise

Two Councilors Opposed To Motion

After much debating city council agreed to adopt a new policy which will see their wages come in line at the median rate of twelve comparable communities, with the increase being phased in over the next three years (2012 - 2014).

Councilors Pattje and Sherry both voted in opposition with Councilor Sherry feeling the raise is unwarranted, and councilor Pattje while not being opposed to the fairness of the increase felt he would have trouble explaining it to Nanaimo taxpayers.

Councillor and the Mayor are certainly not underpaid if the number of hours they devote to the job is actually required to perform their duties. Someone else would have to decide if all the committee work councilors are asked to do is really necessary.

That said, it is my observation that most councilors put in the equivalent of full time hours doing what seems to be expected of them. If that is in fact the number of hours the job requires then the current rate of $26,414 is on the low side and even the median of $34,582 would not be considered being overpaid. Increasing the Mayors rate from the current $79,547 to the median of $89,839 is harder to justify.

If a councilor did put in 40 hours in a week for 50 weeks out of the year at the rate of $26,414 their effective rate of pay would be $13.20 per hour. An increase to $34,582 would increase that rate to $17.29 per hour. The Mayor on the other hand using the same number of hours worked is currently being paid $39.77 per hour and the increase would raise that rate to nearly $45.00 per hour.

While some may argue that city councilors should be doing the job solely out of a sense of civic duty the reality is that unless someone is being compensated fairly for their time these positions will likely only be filled by people in retired or semi-retired positions, as they are the only people in a position who can afford the time. You can argue the pros and cons of filling council with retired folk as they perhaps bring more experience to the table simply due to their age, however, observation would also prove that some fresh thinking could be beneficial. Observation would also conclude that age does not always bring sound critical thinking to the table either.

On the subject of hourly rates etc. it should be pointed out that there are about 160 people on city staff earning on average $100,000 per year which works out to $50.00 per hour, presuming they actually work 40 hours each week for 50 weeks. There are also several on city staff earning in excess of $75 per hour with the city manager topping the scales at over $100 per hour.

Back in the days when city councilors could get together for a few hours twice a month to discuss civic affairs overseeing budgets in the low millions (if that) then perhaps members of the community could be expected to donate their time simply out of a sense of civic duty.

However, today we have a city staff of over 700 (at least) who see how over $160 million is going to be spent (over $60 million goes to city payroll). In order to see that taxpayers are getting a good bang for the buck and to make sure that all contracts awarded by city hall are on the up and up, you need a new caliber of city councilor, who in essence are the board of directors of a substantial corporation.

A corporation, of which every single taxpayer in the city of Nanaimo is a shareholder. Perhaps our taxes would not have to be continually increasing if there were a better caliber of councilor overseeing our affairs. And as the old saying goes, 'if you are going to pay peanuts, you are only going to be able to hire monkeys'.

While no one is more in favour of holding the line on tax increases, this is one area where I think we get what we pay for and in the overall scheme of things if you increased every councilor's wage by $10,000 per year the increase would  mean another $80,000 per year which in the grander scheme of things should be money well spent.


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