Columbia Shuswap Regional District Financial Services Manager Jodi Pierce failed to resolve a longtime contentious issue at the Jan. 19 board meeting in Salmon Arm.
Pierce presented directors with a recommendation to draft a remuneration bylaw based on an independent study, followed by direct input from directors.
Not satisfied with results of the independent study or a new remuneration bylaw prepared by Pierce and based on consultation with directors, Area C director Paul Demenok suggested the adoption of an alternate remuneration policy.
“We should adopt a policy that sets up a percentile; I propose the 60th percentile and every five years do a review,” he said, explaining that 60 per cent of board members across the province are paid less and 40 per cent are paid more. “It’s logical, the same across the province and it’s recompense that fits the work we do.”
Demenok maintains that CSRD electoral area directors are underpaid for their work and the percentage of the CSRD’s budget for remuneration is lower than other regional districts.
“All factors of the report point to us being underpaid,” he said, referring to an independent report by Kathy Sainas of Sainus Consultinc, who was hired by CSRD in June 2016.
But Pierce noted if CSRD had the same number of directors as other regional districts, total remuneration would be much higher and therefore the percentage of budget would also be much higher.
“For example, in the Thompson Nicola Regional District, there are 26 directors with an average remuneration per director of $19,571, whereas in the CSRD there are 11 directors with an average pay of $23,355.”
Pierce says Sainus delivered her report with a proposed remuneration bylaw in Sept. 2016, where the board received it but waived discussion and then deferred the matter to October, then November and then January.
In the meantime, directors advised Pierce individually of the things within the Stainus report that they liked or didn’t like. She then compiled a list of those things the directors did like and would want to see in the bylaw.
“But when I did that, the cost to the regional district would have been about an additional $36,000 or a 13.43 per cent increase, on average, and I wasn’t sure that would be palatable to the board or to the public, given other factors at play – including staff increases and inflation and increases in comparison to other local governments,” said Pierce.
Pierce then crafted a recommendation containing the most common elements supported by the majority of directors, which would have provided an increase of 5.25 per cent on average. This would have put the basic stipend well over the 60th percentile, at least for the electoral area directors.
“It’s important to recognize that remuneration must be fiscally sound, reasonable and relatively simple to implement.”
Supported by Area D director Rene Talbot, Demenok continued to push for a new policy before making a motion to create a remuneration committee consisting of two electoral area directors, two municipal directors and Pierce in order to come up with a satisfactory policy.
But Revelstoke Mayor Mark McKee intervened.
“There is a motion on the floor; to introduce motions when there’s already one on the floor is not the proper way to do things,” he said. “It just throws more mud on the floor. There have been a lot of comments, but not about the motion (to adopt the remuneration bylaw presented by Pierce.)”
Area B Rural Revelstoke Loni Parker supported Demenok in his quest for a remuneration policy.
“We need to have the policy first… and I also like the idea of a committee working with staff to develop a policy that includes everything such as meetings and travel,” she said. “We’ve been working on this for a long time and I think we should get it right.”
CSRD chief administrative officer Charles Hamilton expressed frustration about the length of time, including staff time to that had already been spent to come up with something directors would accept and about who would sit on the new committee.
Chair Rhona Martin said she would appoint the committee of her choosing.
Alternate Salmon Arm director Tim Lavery, who was sitting in for Chad Eliason, said he would vote against the motion on the bylaw presented by Pierce because he believes a policy approach is preferred.
But he called for implementation of any policy to wait until after the next election.