Trail council agrees to review stipends and expenses

Study results will help make future decisions regarding wage increases for city council members.

Not all Trail politicians are on the same page when it comes to an independent review of payment for civic services.

Coun. Sandy Santori was vocal in opposing a $10,900 external study of council stipends and expenses during the Monday governance meeting.

“Personally I am opposed to it,” said Santori, the meeting chair. “We are having the review for no other purpose than to give ourselves a raise.

“The fact that some other politicians have voted themselves in with gold-plated mileage claims and all that other stuff,” he noted, referring to a discussion about regional stipends. “I personally didn’t run because of the money, I knew what I was getting into.”

“You wonder why politicians get painted with the same damn brush all the time,” he said.

“There is an agenda here, that’s my personal opinion. You don’t go out and do a study to see if you are paying yourself enough or whether or not your pay is fair if you have no intent in upping it if it comes in higher.

“Because we all know the outcome will be higher than what we make.”

Trail Mayor Mike Martin, and the four councillors present disagreed with Santori’s view, voting in favour of an unbiased study, while maintaining results will provide a baseline for future decisions about raising remuneration during annual budget talks.

“Really what we are looking for is to make sure elected representatives in Trail are being compensated in a fair and equitable manner compared to other municipalities, the regional district, and the school board,” Martin told the Trail Times Tuesday morning.

“I can only speak for myself, but I did not run for compensation, and what I can say is it really doesn’t compensate for all the time and expenses involved in holding the office. That wasn’t my driving force, my main driving force was to see what I could do to assist this community.”

Urban Systems Ltd., a B.C. consulting firm that has collaborated with Trail on past projects, agreed to undertake the review, which includes a presentation to both council and the community at large.

“I think an important component is not only having a professional review done, but also going through the process of a public consultation,” said Martin.

“During the budget process council felt we really needed solid information on which to make decisions going forward,” he added. “What we wanted to do is a check from the point of view, is the compensation level fair in the context of similar sized B.C. municipalities.”

Without a guideline in place, council considers the matter yearly though the trend has been an increase keeping with the city’s union or the Consumer Price Index (inflation).

The amount written into the city’s bylaw this year, was $29,154 for the mayoral job and $14,577 for a councillor position.

“With respect to the annual increases, council considers the matter independently and there is no scheduled or automatic increase,” clarified David Perehudoff, Trail’s chief administrative officer. “Past practice has resulted in council following the CUPE contract in most years,” he explained. “Given that the CUPE agreement expired and the increase in wages is not known, council chose to give themselves a two percent increase, which was consistent with the CPI.”

Seven months into his inaugural year, Martin enjoys all aspects to his position which he said is comparable to full time employment.

“I am new to the job so I am on a pretty steep learning curve,” he said. “It’s essentially a full time job overseeing the functions as Mayor of Trail. The attraction isn’t the level compensation because I’m not sure a municipally elected position would ever be at a level to attract individuals. The attraction has to be other motivations.”

Earlier this year, Montrose councillors agreed to a raise, which was the first time since 2003. The increase was about 15 per cent and allots about $4,000 to the four Montrose councillors and $6,900 to Joe Danchuk, the village’s mayor.

Excluding expenses, elsewhere in the region, Rossland Mayor Kathy Moore and Fruitvale Mayor Patricia Cecchini earn around $12,000 with both village and city councillors allotted $6,000.