Montrose councillors have increased their annual stipends and ratepayers want to know why.
At Tuesday evening’s meeting, residents George Jones and Ian McAlpine signed up to address council members, requesting answers to questions about a raise outlined in the Council Remuneration and Expenses Bylaw amendment from last month.
“We noticed that a council remuneration increase had been voted on and accepted,” said McAlpine. “It is surprising to see that kind of compensation increase. It made me wonder about the financial responsibility of the village. I realize that no changes have been made to council remuneration since 2003, but you still received the price index increase. It hasn’t been a priority, so why now?”
McAlpine calculated that the increase amounted to over 30 percent, but Mayor Joe Danchuk mentioned his math may not be right.
The increase is closer to 15 per cent when Danchuk laid out the numbers.
“Council was previously making $3,517.38 and the total increase is $482.60,” he said, adding that a remuneration bylaw change had been discussed over the last 12 years, but other items were of higher spending priority at the time.
“The last time we brought this up, we had our water issue, our lines broke and we didn’t know what it was going to cost when that valve let go. We felt that there was no way (we could get a raise) at that point. It seems every year, we have issues that come up.”
Danchuk also mentioned that council took a close look at what other councillors were making in different municipalities of the same size before coming to a decision.
“We have done studies on all the other villages and cities that are of similar size, and we are still one of the lowest paid in B.C. (for our population),” he told McAlpine and Jones, adding that even with the raise, the cost isn’t being passed on to taxpayers in the 2015 budget.
“This increase was way overdue and with our new budget, we have the lowest tax rate increase of anyone in the valley at just 2.5 per cent.
“This was an opportunity for us. We could have gone higher, but in the discussion, we decided not to. We are in a small village and we are limited on our tax base. Nobody likes to see an increase, but we have been fiscally responsible here.”
McAlpine then shared some concerns regarding a raise so soon after the election with two new councillors sitting in chambers.
“Here, you have two brand new councillors and they walk into a seat here and you automatically vote yourselves an increase,” he said. “That concerns us as far as what is being taught to these new councillors. You are at the bottom of the barrel, but now they see that all you have to do is vote yes to give an increase in compensation.”
Rookie councillor Rory Steep spoke to that point, giving his reasons for voting in favour of the increase.
“I thought it was time this happened and it had nothing to do with me being on council,” he said.
“I am not here to make money. I know that isn’t going to happen. I look at councillors like Cindy who have been here for 10 years. In any job, if you hadn’t gotten a raise in over 10 years, you wouldn’t be too happy about it.”
The next Montrose regular council meeting is on April 20 at 7 p.m.