24-per cent raise in store for Nanaimo council

Nanaimo's next city council will inherit a minimum pay raise of 24 per cent spread over three years to bring its remuneration to median levels for other similarly sized B.C. municipalities.

Nanaimo’s next city council will inherit a minimum pay raise of 24 per cent spread over three years.

Council approved the move, which brings its remuneration to median levels for other similarly sized B.C. municipalities, with a 7-2 vote Monday.

Council considered several options, including an option that would have seen council receive full median pay in 2012. While council rejected that option — Coun. Bill Bestwick and Coun. Merv Unger voted for it —  it did see the need to raise pay for the successful candidates of this November’s municipal election.

In May, Bestwick asked to explore a pay-per-meeting system, which prompted a review in how local politicians are paid. That was voted down unanimously by council Monday, which opted to keep the current pay system.

Nanaimo Mayor John Ruttan currently earns $79,547, while councillors earn $26,414.

The median pay for mayors in comparable B.C. cities is $89,839 with the high at $103,032 and the low at $72,684, leaving the mayor’s position 11 per cent below the median.

For councillors, the median pay is $34,582 with a high of $44,048 and the low at $23,342, leaving councillors 24 per cent below the median.

In 2008, because of a struggling global economy, Nanaimo’s current council opted to freeze its remuneration, allowing only for cost of living increases that amounted to about two per cent annually.

Couns. Fred Pattje and Loyd Sherry voted against Monday’s decision to bump council’s pay to median levels.

Pattje said the local economy, with an unemployment rate of 12.3 per cent, has not improved enough to warrant an increase.

“I wanted to keep it at the status quo, cost of living increases only,” said Pattje. “With the local economy the way it is, I couldn’t look people in the eye with that kind of raise.”

The next council, if uncomfortable with the increase, will have the option to change it or reject it outright.

The pay increase will be eight per cent of the median of comparable municipalities from 2012 to 2014, which means if the median increases during 2013 and 2014, so too will council’s remuneration.

In researching a remuneration system in response to Bestwick’s motion in May to pursue a pay-per-meeting system, director of finance Brian Clemens came across the discrepancy in pay after performing a survey of 12 comparable B.C. municipalities.

reporter2@nanaimobulletin.com