Here's why New West city council will consider a pay increase

A consultant has recommended city council increase its pay to offset changes to federal taxation changes.

A report presented to council Monday recommends the mayor’s annual salary be increased to $130,000 (from $106,034) and councillors’ remuneration be upped to $50,000 (from $43,180) to ensure their pay is comparable to similar municipalities and reflects the impact of recent tax changes.

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The city hired an external consultant, Sainas Consult Inc., to review council remuneration in response to the federal government’s decision to eliminate the one-third tax-free municipal officer’s allowance in 2019 and make all of their remuneration fully taxable. In addition to reviewing council remuneration to consider whether it should be adjusted to ensure their net pay remained the same as before the tax changes, the review was also intended to ensure the remuneration is appropriate compared to other municipalities with similar populations and expenditures.

The staff report states council pay is “in line with the comparison market” in most areas, but modifications are recommended in two areas – the amount of remuneration, and the method, frequency and timing of reviews of remuneration.

“These rates would ensure that the mayor and councillors continue to be paid in line with the median of the comparison municipalities,” said a staff report. “It is also recommended that the city should continue its current practice of providing annual adjustments based on the Consumer Price Index for the region in the years between reviews.”

As part of the review, New Westminster mayor and councillor remuneration was compared to Coquitlam, Maple Ridge, Port Coquitlam, Delta, West Vancouver, Langley Township, the District of North Vancouver and the City of North Vancouver.

The consultant found that New Westminster mayor and councillors’ remuneration “was very close to the middle of the market” in 2018. It noted, however, that six of the eight comparison municipalities had increased the gross compensation for their councils in order to maintain the same level of net pay given the taxation changes and the other two were intending to do the same.

In addition to remuneration, New Westminster councillors also received an addition $1,000 per month for acting mayor pay (with councillors usually serving this role twice a year) and an annual vehicle allowance ($1,200 for councillors and $2,400 for the mayor.) The consultant found the acting pay is close to the media of the market, so a change isn’t necessary; the vehicle allowance is below the median of those that provide them, but not all municipalities provide vehicle allowances.

Council received the consultant’s report and the staff report at Monday’s meeting, but tabled consideration of the reports and recommendations until its June 24 meeting. Staff has recommended that council: approve the recommended adjustments for its remuneration retroactively to Jan. 1, 2019; approve continuance of the city’s current practice of providing annual CPI adjustments to council remuneration in the years between reviews; and approve a city review of the remuneration every four years in the months before an election, with the next review to be done in 2026.

On Monday, council also received the 2018 statement of financial information, which includes a report listing the pay of council members, including past councillors and two newcomers elected in the fall. Mayor Jonathan Cote had remuneration of $109,649, followed by Coun. Jaimie McEvoy ($47,434); councillors Patrick Johnstone, Chuck Puchmayr and Mary Trentadue (all at $46,434), former councillors Lorrie Williams ($39,545) and Bill Harper ($38,545), and new councillors Chinu Das and Nadine Nakagawa ($6,852 each).

The report also listed council members’ expenses for 2018, with local politicos reporting varying levels of expenses for attending conferences, training, community events and city-sponsored events. Retired councillors claimed the most in expenses, with Williams at $14,235 and Harper at $10,447, followed by: Puchmayr – $8,979; McEvoy – $7,674; Johnstone – $5,719; Cote – $1,959; Trentadue – $721; Nakagawa – $644; and Das – $198.

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