Councillors in two of the valley’s municipalities may see their salaries change soon, with both the village of Radium Hot Springs and the District of Invermere setting up review committees on the matter this fall.
Both municipalities will look for citizen volunteers to form the committees (usually between three and five people), which will make a recommendation on what, if any, pay increase council members should get. The councils will then vote on the recommendations.
“Legally and officially there are no parameters at all on council pay, and it’s one of the few things councils are allowed to vote on that is a direct conflict of interest,” said Invermere mayor Gerry Taft. “They (the committee) usually compare our wages with those of elected officials in similar sized towns, then look at the workload those councillors have compared with our workload and then use that to make the recommendation.”
Taft added that some B.C. communities give municipal councillors extremely high pay, given the work involved in the job, while some give municipal councillors extremely low pay. The committee usually discounts these outliers when determining the average pay, he said.
Radium Hot Springs follows an extremely similar process, according to Village of Radium chief administrative officer Mark Read.
“It’s important for the committee to get a sense of the degree of activity that occurs in the municipality, since that affects the pressure and responsibilities of councillors,” said Read, adding that Radium may only have a year-round population of roughly 750 people, but it has infrastructure in place to serve 5,000 people since the village often accommodates that many people during summer weekends.
“We are unique in that regard,” he said.
The committees are formed every several years, usually in a municipal election year (such as this current year). Both Invermere and Radium councils typically vote on the committee recommendation just prior to the election, with the idea being that the old council is voting on the incoming council’s pay.
“We try to separate it a bit, by having the old council vote on the salaries of the new council, so it’s not quite as direct as one council voting on its own wages,” said Taft, adding the current Invermere council pay includes a two or three per cent cost-of-living increase each year.
“That seems to be a bit less controversial than doing no increase for three years and then doing a big increase,” he said.
The Village of Canal Flats has not gone through a similar process, according to Canal Flats chief administrative officer Brian Woodward. Canal Flats council pay was voted on in 2004 and includes a two per cent cost-of-living increase each year, but has not changed since.
“Nobody’s doing it for the money. There’s no pension, there’s no benefits, there’s no health plan,” said Taft. “The pay really just offsets the loss of income from other jobs that councillors have, because they must attend meetings or functions.”
The four Invermere councillors each make $12,144 per year in renumeration, while Invermere mayor Gerry Taft makes $20,240.
The district has a year-round population of about 3,000 people.
In Golden, which has a year-round population of 3,700, the mayor makes $20,292 a year and councillors make $10,146.
Of similar-sized communities in the Kootenay and Boundary regions, Rossland, with a population of about 3,500, pays its mayor $11,797 and councillors $6,016; Grand Forks with a population of 3,000 pays its mayor $21,700 and councillors $16,275; and Creston with about 5,000 people, pays its mayor $22,695 and its councillors $11,682.
For comparison sake, looking just north of Golden along the Trans Canada Highway and down Highway 93/95 south from Invermere, two communities with about twice the population of either Invermere or Golden do not pay their elected officials salaries twice as high. In Revelstoke, with 7,000 people, the mayor makes about $28,000 a year and councillors make around $14,000 a year. In Kimberley, which also has a population of about 7,000 people, the mayor makes $25,854 a year and councillors receive $12, 927.
Renumeration for councillors in Radium, with its year-round population of 750, is significantly less, with councillors making $3,966 and Radium mayor Dee Conklin making $6,488. In Canal Flats, which also has a population of about 700 people, mayor Ute Juras makes $6,095 and councillors earn $3,658.
Only two other incorporated communities in the Kootenay region have similar populations to Radium and Canal Flats — Greenwood (in the Boundary area, near Grand Forks) — which makes the claim as Canada’s smallest incorporated city with slightly fewer than 700 people — pays its mayor $7,800 a year while councillors make $5,400; and the village of New Denver, with a population of a bit more than 500 people, where the mayor makes $5,000 a year and councillors make $2,750.
For the valley’s fourth incorporated community, Jumbo Glacier Mountain Resort Municipality with zero population, mayor Greg Deck makes $4,583, while the two councillors each earn $3,055.