Mayor Gregor Robertson and his 10 city councillors have started the new year with a pay raise.
Robertson’s annual salary jumps from $146,156 to $149,503 while councillors earning $64,385 last year will collect $65,860 in 2013.
The jump in salaries comes after council approved a two per cent property tax hike in December to balance the city’s $1.1 billion operating budget.
But Vision Vancouver Coun. Geoff Meggs said the tax and salary increases are unrelated. He pointed to a decision the council of the day made in 1995 to provide annual increases for the mayor and councillors.
“The debate occurred in 1995 to take it out of the political sphere so council wouldn’t be in a position of giving itself increases,” Meggs said.
In 1995, council agreed with recommendations reached by the independent “Councillors’ Compensation Review Panel” which concluded councillors and the mayor should be paid more money.
Specifically, the panel said councillors should be compensated at the same rate as an average full-time employee in the Vancouver area. The compensation should be adjusted annually to track changes in wages as reported by Statistics Canada.
The panel recognized the mayor should be paid 2.27 times the rate of a councillor and that a councillor acting as deputy mayor should be paid a supplement equal to 22 per cent of the mayor’s monthly salary.
“We believe that the work of councillors and the mayor is demanding and important, and that they should be appropriately compensated,” said the panel’s report. “While the hours of work are not regular and do include evening and weekend obligations, the information we received indicates that members of council typically work more than 40 hours per week.”
Meggs said during a council week he puts in at least 60 hours, including events on the weekend. In an off week, he may work 35 to 40 hours, he said.
In Toronto, councillors earn $102,000 a year and have a staff to help with research and answer emails and phone calls. In Edmonton, councillors earn an average of $87,995 per year.
“We have no resources, we don’t have a local office, none of us even have a full-time secretary,” Meggs said. “The public often thinks that we’re in a position to reply to mail and all that kind of stuff. Frankly, the volume is way too high.”
NPA Coun. George Affleck said he only learned recently of his pay increase via a staff email and would have preferred the pay hike be discussed in public.
“I would have been fine sticking with the same salary for the period of time that I’m a councillor,” said Affleck, who also runs a communications business. “To me, it should be something that is reviewed annually and be transparent and we should vote on it and say yes or no to it.”
Vision Vancouver Coun. Tony Tang said he wasn’t aware of the increase. When asked if he thought he was fairly compensated for his work as a councillor, he didn’t give a direct answer.
Tang said the best answer would come from the public, although he acknowledged there was no specific public report that went before council announcing this year’s increases.
“If Coun. Affleck brings that as a motion [to vote on increases] to change the bylaw, then I would look at it,” Tang added.
The City of Vancouver did not formally announce the increases but released this year’s salaries when the Courier requested details of the compensation.