In comparison with other resort towns in B.C., Alberta and Colorado, Whistler’s mayor was paid handsomely even before council granted increases to his and councillors’ salaries July 4.
By contrast with Mayor Ken Melamed’s increase from $52,000 to $80,000 annually, most other resort town mayors make substantially less than Whistler’s mayor.
Invermere’s mayor, Mark Shmigelsky, puts in about 20 hours a week and makes $13,975 a year. Same for Fernie’s Randall MacNair, who makes $14,890 per year for what is supposed to be a part-time job but increasingly seems to be full-time, according to Jim Hendricks, Fernie’s finance director.
Jim Ogilvie has been mayor of Kimberley for almost 30 years and works full-time for $10,352. James Doyle, in his second term as mayor of Golden, works part-time and makes $13,560 a year. Banff, with a population of 7,135 has four million visitors a year and pays its mayor, John Stutz, $30,000 per year. Banff councillors earn $15,000 per year. Vail, Colorado’s mayor, Rod Silfer, is in his second term and earns US$12,000 a year. Vail councillors earn $6,000 a year.
One mayor in Melamed’s range is Kelowna’s mayor, Sharon Shepherd, with an annual salary of $81,000, one-third of which is slated for expenses and is non-taxable. Kelowna councillors earn $24,300, one-third also for expenses.
The B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Sara McIntyre, says she doesn’t have a problem with municipal politicians being adequately paid, it’s how pay increases are decided that’s troublesome.
"Nobody expects them to work for free and certainly there is some demand with respect to their time and level of commitment, but it’s the way local councillors are setting their own pay increases (that is problematic)."
McIntyre advocates instead for an appointed advisory citizens panel, similar to one Victoria is considering, to decide local politicians’ salary increases and expense allowances.
"What we’re recommending, is that at every opportunity, to make it more transparent and simpler," she said. "There’s no reason why politicians should be earning income-tax free money when the rest of us are paying for their salaries."
In her July 5 weekly commentary, titled Municipal Money Mayhem, McIntyre wrote: "It’s hard to stomach municipal governments whining about a lack of revenue when they are voting themselves 25 per cent salary increases, handing out six figure severance packages or levying double digit property tax hikes. The fact is, most municipalities have too much money. Local governments do not have a revenue problem but rather a spending problem and need to check into a budget rehab program."