City council pay under review

City council is looking for five individuals to decide if they deserve a raise.

On Monday, city council approved city staff to begin the recruitment of five members of the public to serve on the Advisory Committee on Council Remuneration. The third-party committee will be tasked with comparing the pay, covered expenses, per diem rate and benefits of Prince George city council with those of mayors and city councilors in nine other B.C. communities and preparing recommendations based on their findings.

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"This comes up at the end of every term, and it's always an awkward moment," Coun. Garth Frizzell said. "(But) this is about the next council."

The City of Prince George Council Remuneration Bylaw, last updated in 2014, requires that a committee be struck to review council pay in the year prior to a municipal election.

A review does not automatically mean an increase, Frizzell said. In 2014 the committee's recommendation to increase the pay for city councillors to 40 per cent of the mayor's rate was not approved, he said.

Frizzell said many communities are conducting similar reviews, because a federal tax exemption on a portion of the pay received by municipal councilors has ended.

"A lot of municipalities are considering what that means," Frizzell added.

Previously one-third of the mayor and city council's base pay was tax exempt, however the federal government eliminated the tax exemption in the 2017 budget.

"It wasn't just a gift from the government," Coun. Murry Krause said. "We do participate vitally in the community, attending a lot of community events... and it was a recognition of that."

The council remuneration set the wage of the mayor at $92,787.89 per year and councillors at $30,929.30 per year on Jan. 1, 2012. Each year since, the wages increased by either the annual percent wage increase for the city's exempt staff salaries or the average increase for the public administration industry as published by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, whichever was lower.

In the 2018 city budget, the combined salary and benefits for mayor and council were predicted to be $394,057 - a $53,834.71 increase compared to 2012.

In addition, each councillor has a $6,000 annual expense account and can claim costs for travel on city business.

Members of the public interested in being on the committee have until March 16 to apply to the city. City council will appoint the members of the council on March 26. Three city staff members -director of human resources Rae-Ann Emery, supervisor of payroll and benefits Tami Wicki and manager of legislative services Maureen Connelly - will sit as non-voting members of the committee.

The committee will then have a month to prepare a report, and present it to city council on April 30. Any changes, if approved by the current city council, would come into effect on Jan. 1, 2019, after the municipal election on Oct. 20.

Ads with details about how to apply for a spot on the committee will run in the Prince George Citizen on Thursday, and again March 1, 8 and 15.

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