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Pay dirt

Billionaire Warren Buffet, a man whose knows a thing or to about return on investment, once said that "Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.

Billionaire Warren Buffet, a man whose knows a thing or to about return on investment, once said that "Price is what you pay. Value is what you get."

This same sentiment could be applied to the announcement this week that city councillors in Prince George voted themselves a $7,000 raise starting next year.

The raise will bring councillor compensation to just over $30,000 per year in 2012, not counting what they receive for sitting on various committees, travel expenses, etc.

The mayor is not affected by this raise, but according to the latest figures, he is the highest paid mayor in B.C. for a city the size of Prince George.

At $94,228 he makes $16,000 a year more than the mayor of Chilliwack which has a population of at least 2,000 more than P.G.

The compensation committee that recommended the increase also proposed that the mayor's and councillors' salaries would increase at the same rate as the city's union exempt staff, or the average wage adjustment for public administrators calculated by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.

Whichever percentage is lower would be used.

So in effect, union wage settlements approved by the politicians would set a benchmark for what they could eventually receive as councillors, since that serves as an indicator of what non-union employees should expect as well.

Given the history of wage settlements with municipal staff in Prince George, that is cause for concern. Just think of the 14 per cent negotiated by the firefighters in their last contract.

Whether our mayor and councillors are fairly paid, above or below the average for other cities in B.C., is really not the issue here. The issue goes back to Buffet's quote.

It's not what we pay municipal politicians; it's whether or not we feel that we are receiving value for our money.

To determine that, ask yourself these simple questions.

Are you satisfied with the level of services that you are receiving as a taxpayer in Prince George?

Do you feel that your tax dollars are being wisely spent by our elected officials?

Are you satisfied that our politicians are looking out for the best interest of the voters in the way they run the city?

Are you happy with the treatment you receive when you deal with city politicians and staff? Are you satisfied with the salaries being paid city staff?

Are you convinced that our elected officials have pursued every avenue for delivering city services in as cost effective manner as possible - including contracting out?

Are you satisfied that the politicians are utilizing enough volunteers where possible to improve the city?

Are you satisfied that city hall is focused on providing core services as opposed to handing out money to hockey arenas, golf courses, non profit organizations and cultural groups?

Are you happy with the amount of money the city spends on consultants?

This list is by no means exhaustive, but if you cannot answer yes to most of them, then you would be one of those people questioning why we should be paying our councillors an extra $7,000 - especially on the heels of a financial meltdown that we still haven't shaken off in P.G.

Mayor and council may have to wait until November to see how the majority of P.G. taxpayers would answer.

-- Prince George Citizen