FORT ST. JOHN, B.C.— City council, after commissioning a third party to perform a compensation and benefits review, did not accept the recommendations of the external report—which, among other things, would have meant a three per cent raise for the mayor and a bump of councillor’s salaries to 40 per cent of the mayor’s.
The one recommendation councillors accepted was to complete remuneration reviews once per term, with results reported at least two years before the next general election.
Councillors were largely against the report’s other two recommendations: one of which raised the mayor and council’s salaries and the other which increased certain benefits.
Councillor Trevor Bolin noted, specifically, that making a change that becomes effective in the middle of a budget season becomes detrimental to that budget.
“While I see offering vehicle allowanced and these different things, I can completely understand and respect that there’s areas where maybe those are needed,” he said, of the benefits included in the report. “I don’t think that’s us, and I don’t think that’s right now. I also don’t think we should be making these sorts of resolutions two months before a general election.”
Though the effect on the budget at large was an issue with the council, so was the general awkwardness of handling their own compensation while in office.
Passing the recommended resolutions on compensation and benefits “would be this council making decisions that increase our wage, or remuneration, during the term that we were elected into,” Councillor Byron Stewart said, explaining the difficulty.
Councillor Lilia Hansen, also opposed to increasing the wages and benefits of the current council, inquired about previous processes of determining raises for elected officials in the town.
“I would like to see perhaps what was done in previous years where there was a committee from the community. That’s also a good way to say, are we doing our job? Does the community feel that we are ready for a raise? Have we worked? Have we earned it?” Hansen said. “I would like to see it go before our peers, before our community, to make that decision.”
One of the reasons the report listed for the increases was not just for councillors themselves but the future of local governance and attracting interested candidates to run for office. In Fort St. John, however, the question of how much money a councillor takes home from their elected position is rarely asked.
“I’ve had the opportunity to meet with some people that are interested in running in the upcoming election but I’ve never had that question asked of me,” Hansen said.
The external report, compiled by Sixth Sense HR, considered several factors including inflation and was crafted on the basis of several benchmark communities in B.C. and Alberta. Along with raises for elected officials, it includes increased benefits like a vehicle insurance allowance and a doubled health and wellness fund for council members.
The council past the first recommendation to require reviews of compensation every term but received the second two recommendations concerning increased remuneration for information only.