Saanich councillors could end up raising their own remuneration Tuesday, but the net effect on their respective pay remains unknown.
As per its own policy, councillors will determine their own remuneration rates during budget discussions, with rates based on the average that council members in eight municipalities of comparable size receive.
If adopted, Mayor Fred Haynes would see his remuneration rise to $116,4492.22 from $102,877.39, an increase of 13.22 per cent. Each of the eight councillors will rise to $46,047.95 from $41,309.50, an increase or 11.47 per cent.
But it is not clear how these proposed increases would impact the net pay of council members. Federal income tax changes effective Jan. 1 mean that they must declare their entire remuneration as taxable. The federal government previously exempted one-third of their remuneration on the assumption that elected officials incur expenses throughout their working year, to the tune of one-third of their pay.
The new system allows members of council deduct expenses they pay from their income the same as every other Canadian with legitimate employment related expenses, said Megan Catalano, a Saanich spokesperson. “The municipality paid and will continue to pay for some expenses such as attendance at some conferences…as per existing policy,” she said. “Mayor and [councillors] are not (and were not) allowed to claim any expenses paid by Saanich.”
The remuneration question comes after the previous council punted the issue to the current council by endorsing the status quo, which calls on councillors to revisit remuneration rates halfway through the budget process.
This choice meant members of council have seen their net pay drop since Jan. 1, 2019, when the tax changes kicked into place.
“As each elected official’s tax circumstances are different, the impacts on net pay for each would be different, but yes, their net pay will be less than in 2018,” said Catalano.
Assuming that council will eventually approve the higher remuneration, it is also not clear whether their 2019 net pay will catch up to their 2018 net pay, as the proposed increases remain the below what was previously exempted.
In 2018, $34,295 of the mayor’s $102,887 remuneration and $13,770 of each councillor’s remuneration were exempt.
This said, the net pay of council members will hinge on their claimed expenses.
Catalano said public members will get to see any expenses that Saanich pays for members of council in June when the municipality releases the annual statement of financial information. “What councillors choose to pay out of their net pay and legitimately claim as deductions on their personal tax returns is not public information,” she said.
The previous council’s decision to pass the buck to the current council generated opposition from Coun. Colin Plant, who had wanted council to raise rates to that point the net pay (after taxes) would be the same rather than defer to the choices of other municipalities.
Coun. Judy Brownoff, however, at the time rejected Plant’s criticism. “I think [this is the] best option at this stage, and it has nothing to do with not having a backbone,” she said.