Pay hikes? Not on this council’s watch

Despite a looming election, council voted last week to form a panel to explore pay structures for mayor and councillors.

PORT McNEILL—Despite a looming election, council voted last week to form a panel to explore pay structures for mayor and councillors. But any potential pay raise won’t be decided by the current council.

Coun. Gaby Wickstrom proposed the 10-year-old remuneration policy be reviewed by a panel made up of a former councillor, a business person and one or two citizen representatives.

“If we have them give us their recommendations, I believe we will get fair and responsible advice as to the level of stipend a council person should receive.”

The total stipend for council is based on one per cent of the town’s tax base, which currently provides approximately $402 per month to councillors and $629 per month for the mayor.

The 2001 council voted an increase over the following two years that resulted in an $8 increase, but the amount has remained unchanged since 2003.

A lively discussion ensued about the formation of such a committee during an election.

“This is a very sensitive time to be doing this,” admitted Coun. Shelley Downey, who’s running for mayor against incumbent Gerry Furney.

“But with a review, at least there will be some data on the shelf for a future council. It’s been 10 years. I can give up my time, but that’s not true of everybody.”

Coun. Shirley Ackland also said it might be a bad time, but waiting for a new council to bring up the matter would be worse.

“I think it would be hard on a new council because they would be perceived as giving themselves a raise,” Ackland said.

“If we don’t do it, we’ll be looking at another three years.”

Mayor Furney cautioned the pay review panel would likely become an election issue regardless of the motivations or sentiments of those proposing it, and said he was optimistic the current council would remain the council after the Nov. 19 election.

But at least two new faces will join council following the election.

Coun. Aaron Frost is not standing for re-election, and Downey has surrendered her seat to try for the mayoral chair.

Wickstrom said her motion was not about making more money, but creating a fair compensation system for time commitments, particularly for councillors who might have to take unpaid time off work for council functions.

Furney addressed that concern by noting the Town has in the past held a policy that allows councillors to submit an expense report to request reimbursement of lost wages. The policy is not encoded in bylaw, but “It was a policy we adopted to address situations like that,” Furney said.

Wickstrom’s initial motion asked that the committee return its recommendations by Nov. 7, but Ackland said that timeline was probably unrealistic and offered an amendment that the recommendations be presented to the new council at its first meeting Dec. 1.

The amended motion was then approved. Wickstrom will submit a list of potential committee members for approval of council and Town staff.