(Photo: Flickr)

In Our Opinion: How to pay yourself

Prince Rupert mayor and council navigate the awkwardness of upping their pay after an extended freeze

Council could barely contain their applause when the city’s chief financial officer announced that for once the city is proposing a tax cut.

Despite it being a very modest two per cent, or $38 in savings to homeowners with property worth $200,000, it’s a start.

The slight tax cut doesn’t mean less services, the city is proposing more paving, more updates to the dam, landfill and recreational complex, two more RCMP members and wait for it, another bylaw officer. Can you say more parking tickets?

It seems the good news keeps coming — this is in spite of failed negotiations with the District of Port Edward to renegotiate the Ridley Island Tax Sharing Agreement. The slice of Ridley Terminal pie is expected to increase for Port Edward this year. The dividend this year is expected to be $1.25 million, last year it was close to $900,000.

READ MORE: City proposes 2 per cent tax cut

But back to the good budget news, which came following the select standing committee’s presentation on recommendations for how much we should be paying mayor and council.

This year, the federal government removed a special treatment on council wages that had exempt 1/3 of their salary from taxation. To boot, councillors have had a renumeration freeze since 2014 to ‘minimize tax impacts’.

Awkward as it is, council is ready to get paid at the very least equally with their B.C. counterparts.

But the mayor’s raise is going to be a tougher sell.

The committee has suggested the full-time mayor receives a $15,000 raise, from $60,000 to $75,000, and councillors receive 25 per cent of the mayor’s salary.

Mayor and council will have to approve of their own pay this spring — after waiting for public reaction.

It’s not going to be pleasant.

READ MORE: Tax change triggers tricky debate on politicians’ pay

Committee member, Bob Thompson, had some valid points about seeing this potential increase in pay as a way to strengthen future democracy so that residents from all walks of life can afford to be on council.

We know councillors put in a lot of extra time, and four years of dedication to improve the city while standing under the often cruel social spotlight.

But the mayor’s wage… it’s gone from $43,000 in 2014 when the position was part-time, to $62,000 in 2018 when the position was full-time and then up to $75,000 in 2019. Suddenly running for mayor just became a little more attractive. The 2022 municipal election may see more than one person in the running for the job.

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