Ben Maartman, CVRD’s director for North Oyster/Diamond, feels board directors setting their own pay is a conflict of interest. (Citizen file photo)

Ben Maartman, CVRD’s director for North Oyster/Diamond, feels board directors setting their own pay is a conflict of interest. (Citizen file photo)

Next CVRD board will decide director’s pay raises

Raises for electoral area directors will be part of 2023 budget deliberations

The new board at the Cowichan Valley Regional District after next month’s municipal elections will decide if it wants to increase the pay of its nine electoral area directors by $11,167 per year as part of its budget discussions for 2023.

The board made that decision after a lengthy discussion at its meeting on Aug. 31.

To have the next board decide the issue was the top recommendation from staff, but directors considered another option that would have seen the district use the Union of B.C. Municipalities’ Council & Board Remuneration Guide to determine their pay, which would have involved the establishment of an independent task force, before that option was voted down.

RELATED STORY:PAY INCREASES FOR CVRD DIRECTORS BACK AT TABLE

The current pay for electoral area directors, who haven’t had a pay increase in almost nine years, is a little more than $32,000 a year.

The municipal directors from the City of Duncan, the Municipality of North Cowichan, the Town of Ladysmith and the Town of Lake Cowichan also receive pay from their municipalities.

Shawnigan Lake director Sierra Acton said her job is more than full time and she’s expected to work days and nights and even weekends at times.

“The compensation we receive is below minimum wage,” she said.

“It’s unfortunate that an entry-level clerk can come in [to the CVRD] and have twice as much pay as a member of the board.”

At a board meeting in 2020, the district’s director services select committee recommended that remuneration for the representatives from the CVRD’s electoral areas be increased by $11,167.

But many directors concluded that it was bad timing to be discussing pay raises during the instability created by the COVID-19 crisis, which had just recently been declared a world-wide pandemic, and a decision was made to postpone the discussion.

RELATED STORY: CVRD DIRECTORS DEFER PAY-RAISE DISCUSSION FOR 30 DAYS

Ian Morrison, director for Cowichan Lake South/Skutz Falls, said the previous board decided to leave it to the current board to deal with the compensation question, and he fears the next board will do the same.

“I can’t see a new board being enthusiastic about addressing the compensation issue at the beginning of a new term,” he said.

“It doesn’t really matter what format that is taken [to determine remuneration] because it’s going to be a questions that [the board] will ultimately have to vote on.”

Cobble Hill director Mike Wilson said he won’t support increasing the pay for electoral area directors.

“I’ve got a spread sheet that shows since 2014, we have done very well at this table,” he said.

“I will support pay raises that are in line with other people in the public sector, but a 33 per cent pay raise? I don’t think so.”

Ben Maartman, director for North Oyster/Diamond, said he feels that directors setting their own pay is a conflict of interest.

He said he would love a raise, but he doesn’t want to be the one who decides what his raise would be, and he would prefer the option of using the UCBM’s model to determine directors’ remuneration.

“That would put it at arms length from us and relies on doing this on a regular basis, much like the private and public sectors where people go through regular contract reviews,” Maartman said.

RELATED STORY: CVRD’S BOARD POSTPONES PAY RAISE DISCUSSION UNTIL 2021

But Youbou/Meade Creek director Klaus Kuhn said he can’t support that option, calling it a bureaucratic nightmare.

“There would be sessions and considerations, but we’ve gone through all this and that would be a waste of time,” he said.

Saltair/Gulf Islands director Lynne Smith said the electoral area directors work very hard for their constituents and have no councils to help them do their jobs.

She said she loves the job and having the ability to accomplish things for her community, as all directors do, but she fears that the low pay will dissuade some potential candidates from running for the board at election time.

“This is not an easy position, and the remuneration is a little too low for sure,” Smith said.

Board chair and director for Cowichan Bay Lori Iannidinardo said that as well as their pay, directors also have medical benefits, mileage and other financial benefits that go with the position, including perks from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Union of B.C. Municipalities and the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities.

Blaise Salmon, director for Mill Bay/Malahat, agreed with Morrison that no matter which option is chosen, the board would still have to vote for their own pay raises in the end, so he supports having the issue discussed as part of the 2023 budget deliberations.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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