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Raise recommended for next Grand Forks council

An independent committee struck to look at the amount Grand Forks city council gets paid is recommending the mayor’s salary be increased to $30,000 per year while councillors receive $20,000 each starting with the next council to be sworn in following elections this fall.

Presently the mayor makes $25,885 per year and councillors $19,414 each.

The committee is also calling for the addition of a reimbursable expense for childcare/dependent care at a rate of $10 per hour to a maximum of $100 per month.

Following a presentation from the committee, council directed staff to prepare a revised bylaw that would incorporate the changes.

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Barb Thate of the Chamber of Commerce chaired the committee, which also had representatives from Community Futures, the Downtown Business Association, the Rotary Club, and a former city manager. They worked with a consultant in coming to their conclusions.

Their report suggests that starting in 2024, council’s remuneration receive an annual adjustment based on the 10-year average of the consumer price index for BC, something the Town of Golden has done.

Council’s pay was last adjusted in 2019, with the mayor’s pay set at $24,000 and councillors $18,000 each, both subject to increases matching the consumer price index.

In reaching their recommendations, the committee looked at nine other similar-sized communities: Fernie, Golden, Invermere, Oliver, Osoyoos, Port Hardy, Rossland, Smithers, and Sparwood.

They found the average mayor’s salary in those places was $30,805, with Grand Forks lower than all but one of the other places. Councillors received an average of $16,133. Grand Forks was higher than all but two municipalities.

They also considered the relationship between the amount the mayors earned versus the councillors. In 20 comparable municipalities, the average council pay was about half that of the mayor, whereas in Grand Forks it is three-quarters cent. The recommended changes would set it at two-thirds.

“It is important to note that the committee challenged this measurement in general,” they wrote in their report. “They did not accept that there was a link between the percentage difference in remuneration and the commitment as an elected official as either mayor or councillor.”

As far as the childcare benefit, the committee suggested that it could help attract more people to run for office.

“[C]hild or dependent care is one item that can put councillors on an uneven playing field in terms of compensation and detracts from the diversity that is desired on council,” they wrote.

“[It] represents an out-of- pocket expense that many single parents, young parents or people caring for elderly or other dependents incur and may present a barrier to seeking a position on council.”

The committee also said they recognized that setting pay scales for public office is “a difficult issue” and appreciated the approach of an outside review.

“The committee would also like to recognize that the remuneration provided in no way reflects the time, effort and loss of family time that is required to undertake the roles of mayor and councillor, particularly in this time of social media scrutiny and hostility.”

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