A 2019 review of council stipends revealed that compensation for Trail officials is pretty much in line with other like-sized B.C. communities, says Mayor Lisa Pasin.
The subject rears up annually during budget talks, and generally, Trail council agrees to a two per cent salary increase to reflect the CPI (Consumer Price Index), otherwise known as inflation.
This year, however, a federal tax change went into effect on Jan. 1. The new rule affects the bottom dollar of all municipally-elected officials going forward, so councils across the province have been reviewing compensation numbers.
Simply put, salary-plus-allowances of municipal-office holders are now taxed 100 per cent. Historically, one-third of those earnings qualified for a federal tax exemption.
To quantify the financial impact, municipalities are making adjustments to council stipends to compensate elected officials so that their after-tax or take home pay is equivalent.
“If we look at the average, based on the communities polled, the mayor position is under compensated by $2,350 and councillors are overcompensated by a mere $132 annually,” Pasin told the Trail Times.
“As a result, our elected officials agreed to maintain the rates as proposed in the bylaws and not make any further adjustments.”
In the city’s review, staff polled 17 municipalities comparable in size to Trail, to find out what other municipal office-holders were being paid last term (2015) and now.
Using this data, on average, mayors will be compensated $37,850 in 2019 and councillors $17,643. Comparatively, the Mayor of Trail will be paid $35,550 this year, and councillors $17,775 each.
As background, in the previous term those seats were making $30,215 and $14,101 respectively, while Trail council’s compensation stood at $29,154 and $14,577.
“It was deemed that the compensation adjustment provided was fair and reasonable,” Pasin said. “And keeps the stipends of Trail’s elected officials in line with other municipalities across the province.”
Of those municipalities polled, the range of most common adjustments were 10 per cent to 28 per cent.
“Trail council approved a 14.91 per cent,” said Pasin. “Which maintained the take home pay as status quo for elected officials and provided no notable increase or decrease.”
Another reason why council chose such an in-depth review this year, is the fact that all six Trail councillors were acclaimed in the 2018 civic election.
The newly elected panel questioned if compensation values had anything to do with it.
“This is of concern for the current elected officials and the city moving forward,” Pasin said, referring to the acclamations.
“The review was undertaken, in part, to ensure that stipend amount as compared to other municipalities of like-size was not a deterrent to run for elected office,” she explained.
“When considering the hours invested into your community as an elected official, the stipend paid is low if calculated as an hourly rate. Thus financial compensation for service is often not the motivating factor to run for elected office.”
A greater desire to serve your community and be involved at a much deeper and richer level is often a key motivating factor, Pasin added.
“I encourage our citizens to speak to the city’s elected officials or staff if you are interested in running for an elected position in the next municipal election. The regular and GOC (Governance and Operations) council meetings are also open to the public, should you wish to watch the meetings to get a glimpse of the decision making that occurs during meetings.”
In response to the federal tax change, Warfield council took a look at its remuneration earlier this year.
“The previous council chose to defer this, as this would affect the next council and their stipend,” explained Warfield Mayor Diane Langman. “At our January 24th meeting, council reviewed this together and passed a motion to increase the stipend accordingly.”
To make up for the loss of tax exemption, village officials agreed to increase the mayor’s salary by $660 and councillor compensations by $420. That brings this year’s stipend to about $11,000 for the mayor’s job and approximately $7,700 for sitting councillors.