City councillors should cross-reference their expense claims to avoid being accused of “double-dipping” from city funds by potential critics.
This was one recommendation to come out a task force charged with reviewing how much Terrace mayor and council should be paid, presented last night during the regular meeting.
“Particularly in view of some of the scandals that have made the news of late with elected people and their expenses,” said task force presenter Andre Carrel, “council here may be exposed to an accusation of double-dipping by having an expense allowance to provide for expenses incidental to your responsibilities on one hand, and on the other hand another expense allowance [for trips out of town].”
Both expense streams should cross-referenced and better described in the city’s policy, the recommendation states.
The city may or may not adopt this recommendation, and it was a side note to the central recommendation from the task force’s report to council, which is to keep the mayor’s salary where it is while bumping up council’s pay.
Councillors’ remuneration will increase to $14,500 per year from $12,121 and the mayor’s remuneration will stay at $34,500.
One third of their pay will be tax free as usual, and a salary adjustment will happen yearly based on the consumer price index, which typically amounts to an approximately 2 per cent yearly increase.
The pay increase will apply to the next council forming after the November local government elections, effective in 2015.
“You cannot measure it, the evaluation on your performance is really done on the ballot box,” said Carrel stated in giving the philosophy that guided the task force’s decision.
The mayor, he said, has an executive role on top of the legislative role of the six councillors. However, since the mayor’s position got a salary increase in 2011, the increase in council’s pay was needed to keep the ratio between the legistaltive and executive salaries equal based on other cities that pay their councillors an average of 42 per cent of what the mayors make.
The task force was, along with Carrel, made up of Jeanette Anderson from the Terrace and District Community Services Society, Val Gauvin of the Terrace & District Chamber of Commerce, Be Gomes of the Kitimat-Terrace & District Labour Council, former councillor Brad Pollard and City of Terrace Terrace corporate administrator Alisa Thompson.
Councillor James Cordeiro voted against the motion to accept the pay raise, and had previously stated that he thought a tax deduction to property owners should accompany any increase in council’s salaries.
They found that Terrace’s pay scale “was not way out of line”, according to Carrel.
“The only thing that appeared to be out of line was the relationship between the executive and legistlative remuneration,” he said.
In terms of double dipping, Carrol said that Terrace mayor and council were exposed to accusations of this because the 30 per cent of their salary they receive tax-free is supposed to pay for incidental expenses, however they also get an account for expenses when they are travelling, so the recommendation says that this needs to be tracked more clearly.
Councillor Marylin Davies, who marked her final night at council before moving south with her husband to Vancouver Island after more than 50 years in Terrace, suggested a motion that a review of mayor and council’s pay be done again during the next term. However the recommendation from the task force indicated that a review would not happen until the next 4-year term is up.
Note: a change was made to this article to increase accuracy.