Council compensation close to the average; more info sought on health/dental benefits
By ROY WOOD
Oliver council members would like to know what other jurisdictions provide their elected representatives in health and dental benefits.
The question came up as council reviewed a study from town staff regarding what mayor and councillors in jurisdictions of similar size receive in annual compensation. Oliver’s mayor and council stipends are close to the average of the towns surveyed.
However, several jurisdictions, including Osoyoos, provide their council members with medical and dental coverage. Oliver does not.
The study is part of an occasional review of council remuneration. The last one was done in 1996.
Oliver’s mayor and council receive annual adjustments to their compensation based on the rate of inflation as indicated by the Consumer Price Index.
According to the report from chief administrative officer Cathy Cowan, “The yearly CPI adjustment has kept the remuneration for mayor and council in line with other communities of similar size.”
Councillor Larry Schwartzeberger pointed out that the discussion was around future councils and that any increase in annual stipends or improvement in benefits would not come into effect until after the Fall 2018 civic election.
The public discussion of comparable remunerations was in stark contrast to the process under which members of Osoyoos council gave themselves a raise last summer.
Following discussion at a closed meeting and based on a report that has not been made public, Osoyoos council increased councillors’ stipends by five per cent and the mayor’s by 15 per cent.
At the time, Osoyoos Mayor Sue McKortoff advised a reporter that if he wanted to look at the comparables he could “find the information by phoning people in (the) other communities.”
Asked why her council decided on a closed process rather than a public one, McKortoff said: “I don’t know why. It was just brought up at one of our meetings (and) could we have a look at what other communities were paying their councillors and their mayor because we seem to be doing a whole ton of work. …
“It was just decided among the five of us, and we asked to have a report brought back on this. … We didn’t think (a public study) was necessary.”
On Monday, Oliver Water Councillor Rick Machial pointed out that “Osoyoos council used the high school (closing crisis) as an excuse (for the pay increase).” He wondered whether, now that the crisis has passed, they would roll it back.
According to the report to council on Monday, Oliver’s councillors and mayor rank very near the average of the 10 communities surveyed.
Mayor Ron Hovanes receives an annual stipend of $26,792 and the four councillors get $14,289. The average for mayors is $26,144 and for councillors $13,880.
In Osoyoos, McKortoff receives $27,142 and the four councillors get $16,549. As well, the five elected members are entitled to a health and dental benefits package.
The council committee directed staff to broaden the report to include information about what other jurisdictions provide by way of health and dental coverage.
Hovanes observed that offering a better benefits package might help attract younger people with families to run for civic office.
Staff will also provide more information on stipends in other communities for the position of acting mayor. Each member of Oliver council serves one three-month term per year as acting mayor and occasionally find themselves filling in for Hovanes.
Only Oliver and Osoyoos councils include water councillors. Their annual stipends are $5,358 and $4,338 respectively.