More than a decade has passed since Sooke District Council had a raise in pay, giving them the dubious distinction of being the lowest paid council cited in a 2017 Participant Report that studied the remuneration of Councils in a cross-section of B.C. municipal governments.
All that changed, sort of, when, at Monday’s Council meeting, Council got around to approving the recommendation to lift the freeze on salaries that has been in effect since 2012 and grant themselves a modest pay increase.
The raise for counsellors was far from overwhelming, however, amounting to $2,500 retroactive to Jan. 1, 2019 and an additional $2,500 to take effect on Jan. 1, 2020; an increase that will set their salaries at $15,000 per anum in 2020.
The mayor also received a raise in pay, bringing her remuneration up to $25,000 in 2019 and boosting it to $30,000 in 2020.
Those increases still leave Sooke District Council positioned near the bottom of the pay scales for the Capital Region.
“This is an issue that has come forward a few times here and it’s a difficult one for Councils to deal with,” said Mayor Maya Tait as she introduced the agenda item.
“It’s difficult because it is up to Council to set their own remuneration, and it’s an uncomfortable situation. But it’s been a situation that has effectively seen us making less and less.”
The freeze in salaries has actually had an effect on two fronts.
Not only has the effective salary been subject to a decreased buying power due to increases in the cost of living index since 2012, but a change in tax regulations also stripped Council of the one-third non-taxable benefit that they once enjoyed.
And while the issue of a pay raise has been around for some time, Council has repeatedly balked at voting themselves a raise.
When the issue was raised in January of 2018, the old Council opted to kick the can down the road to where a new Council would have to deal with the issue.
A year later, the current Council again demurred, pushing the item forward to a later meeting to allow time to study the issue further.
When the time came, it was Councillor Al Beddows who made the motion for the pay raise, seconded by Councillor Meagan McMath.
The only councillor speaking against the motion was Brenda Parkinson, who noted that Council was just entering budget deliberations and who stated that she could not “in all good conscience” vote for the motion until she knew what the tax implications were.
Councillor Bateman responded that the tax implications were already spelled out in the staff report and amounted to a fraction of one per cent (.28 % to be exact) but Parkinson was not convinced and was the only councillor to vote against the motion.