It was a big payday for Whistler’s elected officials Tuesday night as council unanimously approved a hefty wage increase for themselves.
Effective immediately, the mayor’s salary is jumping more than $25,000 a year and each councillor will be making an additional $10,000 a year.
The pay hike means their salaries will be $80,174 and $28,735 respectively.
Collectively that represents an additional $85,000 in new wages for council, and roughly a 50 per cent rise in their individual paycheques.
Council made the decision Tuesday night with little debate. The increase was based on the average of the six Lower Mainland communities, which are used by the resort municipality to gauge their employee salaries.
The day after the meeting Mayor Ken Melamed admitted it was an uncomfortable position to be in – giving yourself a large pay raise. And he did not doubt there would be negative reaction, as well as positive reaction, from the community.
"I expect there’s going to be people on both sides as usual," he said.
"It does appear as a huge increase."
But he stood behind council’s decision.
"This is an attempt to catch up and make it right."
The decision to give themselves a pay raise stems back to the last council after a remuneration committee, made up of three community members, recommended only a $1,000 increase for councillors, based on a 20-hour workweek, and nothing extra for the mayor.
"I felt that we did really good research into what was competitive in the area," Sue Adams said Wednesday of the work done by that committee.
She explained that they did a comparative analysis of not only the Lower Mainland municipalities but also towns of similar size, such as Banff. They also interviewed each member of the past council.
"Certainly the message that we got from the previous mayor and council was that it was a way of contributing back to your community and it shouldn’t be considered as employment per se," said Adams.
She questioned the size of the new increase.
"I think that’s pretty hefty, personally."
That committee’s recommendation for a minor pay rise, said Melamed, shocked some members of the last council.
When asked why he supported that decision at the time, Melamed explained that he felt bound to go with the committee’s opinion.
"When council strikes a committee and asks it for its opinion you’re pretty much bound to go with the opinion," he explained. "That’s what we did."
But the ramifications of that decision rippled through council and former Councillor Caroline Lamont sited the poor pay as one of her reasons not to seek re-election in November. She was, however, the only member of the last council to vote against the committee’s recommendation though several others voiced concerns about it at the time.
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