CRD directors double pay for themselves; last raise 20 years ago

The pay for Capital Regional District directors will almost double in January, adding up to $250,000 to the regional budget.

Directors voted 18-6 Wednesday to give themselves a pay hike, increasing the base pay for the board’s 24 members to $17,000 a year from $8,940. The board chairperson will be paid an additional stipend of $25,000 a year, up from $20,000, for a total of $42,000. The raises take effect Jan. 1, 2016.

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Ben Isitt called the increase modest, while Marianne Alto said she agreed with the hike in principle — but only if it came into effect after the 2018 municipal elections and was phased in.

“I’ve had to make huge sacrifices professionally to serve in this role,” said Isitt, a Victoria councillor.

“It’s a big privilege to be here, but I’m not afraid to say that I think a modest increase in compensation is reasonable to help meet increases in the cost of living, particularly for people who have families.”

Alto said elected officials should not be making decisions to benefit themselves and just because they could pay themselves more does not mean they should.

“Every person sitting at that table [Wednesday] knew what they were going to be paid and they made the decision to run — they made an informed decision,” said Alto, also a Victoria councillor.

CRD chairman Nils Jensen called the raise “long overdue.”

The pay for directors and the chairperson had not changed in 20 years. A private consultant was hired to consider and recommend fair compensation in line with that at other regional governments.

The chairperson position is almost full time, Jensen said, and the work comes on top of his responsibilities as Oak Bay mayor, for which he is paid about $28,000. His combined annual Oak Bay-CRD income will be about $70,000 as of January — about half what he earned as a prosecutor.

Jensen said there’s been a “sea change in the complexity and workload” at the CRD over the past 20 years, with those on the standing committees — including the environment, planning, protective services, and transportation committees — doing the heavy lifting. The regional district provides more than 200 services for a mix of urban, rural and island areas in 13 municipalities and juggles a $400-million annual budget, he said.

“It shouldn’t be forgotten that we in the CRD, in my view, are the most complex, diverse region of any in British Columbia,” Jensen said.

The board also approved additional annual stipends of between $2,500 and $5,000 for the board vice-chairperson, standing committee chairpersons, and the Hospital District chairperson. Directors who are on more than two standing committees will be paid an additional $5,000 annually.

Alternate directors and directors appointed to outside boards or commissions will be paid $100 per meeting.

An annual cost-of-living adjustment will be applied, and remuneration will be reviewed every three to five years to ensure it remains competitive.

The matter of developing a formula to address director absences has been referred to the finance committee.

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