Are Sunshine Coast Regional District Directors paid enough? This question was raised on Feb. 23 by Area D Director Mark Lebbell at the SCRD’s Corporate and Administrative Services Committee Meeting.
Lebbell made a motion asking staff to investigate a directors’ compensation review, with the intent of revising compensation before new directors are elected in 2018.
Lebbell’s motion was supported by SCRD Chair, Garry Norh, who recently expressed his concerns about the challenges faced by elected officials in his Feb. 16 column in the Local.
Norh, who was first elected to the SCRD in 2005 and has declared that he will not run for another term, stated: “The work required for any elected official is not a part-time job any more.”
“I keep hearing all the time we need more young people. Sometimes I consider that an ageist comment, but at the same time I think it’s right. And to be able to do that we have to make it so that they can afford to do the job.”
SCRD directors are compensated per meeting attended, with committee chairs receiving a higher rate for meetings they chair, and the SCRD board chair also receiving higher pay. Directors who represent the municipalities at the SCRD receive compensation from the SCRD for each meeting, as well as their salary as a municipal politician.
Lebbell pointed out that being paid by the meeting is problematic, as it doesn’t reflect the amount of work required for different meetings. “I can attend a five minute meeting and receive the same remuneration as a two hour and fifty-nine minute meeting that has 340 pages of reading prior to it,” he said.
In 2015 (the most recent year for which full financial reports are available) SCRD Rural Directors earned an average of $32,000 and the board chair earned $50,000. However, in 2016 their compensation dropped substantially when the regional district streamlined its meeting schedule. Director Lebbell’s pay dropped over a third from $31,300 in 2015 to $19,638 in 2016.
According to livingwagecanada.ca, a living wage on the Sunshine Coast is $18.87 per hour, or $39,250 per year (assuming a 40 hour work week).
In 2015, the senior SCRD managers who attend board meetings earned salaries ranging from $90,000 to $130,000.
The SCRD board voted unanimously in favour of Lebbell’s motion.
In a later email, Lebbell stated that he wants to foster public discussion “so that the privilege of serving one’s community in this way is open to all, regardless of social circumstances.”
“If we choose too be governed at a local level only by those who can currently afford it, then let’s be open and transparent about that,” said Lebbell.
Lebbell, a teacher, is presently the only SCRD Rural Director who is not a senior. Area A Director Frank Mauro is a retired mining manager, Area B Director Garry Norh is a retired school administrator, Ian Winn (Area F) is a retired manufacturing project manager, and Area E Director Lorne Lewis is a realtor.
Councillors in the Town of Gibsons earn $14,370 per year and the Mayor is paid $30,985. The basic stipend for District of Sechelt councilors is $18,559, and the Mayor receives $37,109. Municipal politicians’ salaries are not tied to meeting attendance, but they are paid more when they attend SCRD meetings.