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Next Castlegar council to get a raise

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The present Castlegar city council will be a little more generous to their successors when it comes to salary and expenses than a community committee recommended.

The committee tasked with reviewing how much the next mayor and council will be paid suggested increasing the mayor’s annual salary from $32,000 to $34,800 and councillors’ from $16,000 to $17,500, to reflect a two per cent cost of living increase and other adjustments.

However, at councillor Dan Rye’s suggestion, the mayor will instead make $36,000 per year and councillors $18,000.

“No one is here for the money,” he said. “We’re here because we care about the community. But it does take up a lot of our time.”

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Rye said there is a lot more to the job than meets the eye, and that not meeting in person during the pandemic does not mean they were less busy.

“I don’t think the community realizes how much we did and how much time we put in,” he said, pointing to strategic planning and budget meetings that “take up days.”

Councillor Sue Heaton-Sherstobitoff agreed, saying most councillors put in about 20 hours a week, which works out to about $18 an hour.

“If our mission is to attract younger, more diverse candidates to the positions, we have to have enticing pay,” she says. “A lot of people don’t think it’s worth it because of the negativity on social media and all that.”

She says council meetings only account for a portion of the job. On top of that, there is responding to emails and phone calls, reading reports, doing research, and attending other types of meetings.

Rye and Heaton-Sherstobitoff voted in favour of the increase along with councillors Cherryl MacLeod and Bergen Price. Councillor Maria McFaddin was opposed. Mayor Kirk Duff and councillor Brian Bogle were absent.

The increase takes effect when the new council is sworn in on Nov. 7. Starting in January 2024, annual increases in council pay will be linked to the BC Consumer Price Index.

The remuneration committee also suggested doing away with a fund that allowed council members to spend up to $1,500 per term on technology and clothing.

However, council voted to keep it, arguing it is important for those who could not otherwise afford business attire or need to upgrade their cell phone or internet plans to do their work. The city also provides an iPad to each council member.

Council heard that five out of nine council members accessed the fund last year, but the remuneration committee felt eliminating it and increasing the stipend would be fairer to all, as everyone would receive the same amount.

Grand Forks council recently agreed the next mayor should get $30,000 and councillors $20,000 each. Trail city council considered giving itself a two per cent raise, but decided against it.

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