The Thompson-Nicola Regional District board of directors voted to give itself a 2.8 per cent pay raise this year, along with automatic annual increases that are in line with the Consumer Price Index.
The move comes after staff found TNRD wages were lagging behind the average in other regional districts. The increase - passed last week in a 16-9 vote - means electoral area directors will receive $25,256 per year, and municipal directors $15,135. The per-meeting rate for directors will also jump from $160 to $170.
Director Ken Gillis will be paid $49,022, including $23,766 as chair and the $25,256 as Electoral Director for Area L (Grasslands). The board chair does not receive the per meeting remuneration.
Director Denis Walsh, a City of Kamloops councillor, questioned the automatic per year increase, especially given the upcoming election on Oct. 15. He argued future boards should have the opportunity to discuss and debate increases every year.
Electoral Area E (Bonaparte Plateau) Director Sally Watson said she would be interested in seeking public opinion about board salary increases.
Mel Rothenburger, director for Electoral Area P (Rivers and Peaks), suggested an amendment to forego the increase altogether for 2022, including indemnities and meeting allowances, which was quickly seconded by Director Dale Bass, a City of Kamloops councillor.
Rothenburger said the board is still trying to rebuild public trust following the spending controversy under former CAO Sukh Gill. One way to help improve the public’s view is to show leadership and demonstrate the board is not entitled and are “willing to hold the line on what we are compensated with,” he said.
Director Arjun Singh, a City of Kamloops councillor, disagreed, saying the board has “worked hard to rectify the problems of the past.”
But Bass said she still hears from constituents concerned about the board’s misdeeds and doesn’t want to go into an election focused on wages rather than the TNRD’s issues and policies.
Electoral Area B (Headwaters) Director Stephen Quinn countered that an election is the best time for the public to speak against the board’s decisions. He later noted the financial audit had found that board members were not at fault in the spending controversy.
Director for Electoral Area J (Copper Desert Country) Ronaye Elliott said the wages must be bumped if they wanted to attract more young people to run for office.
CAO Scott Hildebrandt noted the TNRD is one of the only regional districts that doesn’t have a yearly increase based on inflation.
Rothenburger’s amendment failed, despite support from Bass, Singh, Rice, Walsh, Watson, Clearwater Mayor Merlin Blackwell, Sun Peaks Mayor Al Raine and Barriere Mayor Ward Stamer. Watson, Rice, Rothenburger, Walsh, Raine and Bass also supported an amendment from Walsh to forego the automatic per year wage increase but that, too, was defeated.