The Langley Township and City reps on the Metro Vancouver Board of directors voted against a much-criticized “retirement allowance” when it came back for a second look on Friday.
The decision to drop the increases was unanimous.
During the discussion leading up to the vote, Langley Township councillor Bob Long called it “a good demonstration of local government, how we can reconsider situations like this.”
Following the vote, Langley City councillor Rudy Storteboom said in his opinion, “the pay adjustment was poorly presented and badly received, so I’m glad that it was brought back for discussion and unanimously revoked.”
Long, with Storteboom’s backing, announced on April 4 he would be bringing a motion to have the retirement allowance proposal reconsidered, but the motion was presented instead by board Vice Chair Raymond Louie, a Vancouver city councillor, who gave notice of his intention on April 13.
The directors also endorsed a proposal by board chair and Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore, to direct staff to create a third-party review panel and initiate a review of other regional districts on how they handle remuneration and benefits.
Both the Langley Township and Langley City councils had asked their reps on the Metro Vancouver board to vote against the proposal when it came back.
While the Metro directors are not required to follow the direction suggested by their council colleagues, Long and Storteboom both said they would.
The issue was raised at the Monday night meetings of both councils before the Metro vote on Friday, with Township Coun. Kim Richter and City Coun. Gayle Martin making similar motions that “request” their voting members on the Metro Board vote against the controversial retirement allowance that was approved in March when it comes back for reconsideration at the April 27 meeting.
“I really don’t think a pension is necessary,” Richter said.
“It absolutely amazed me that something like this would come forward,” Martin said.
The vote asking the Metro reps to say no was unanimous at both council meetings, including the Metro reps.
At the Township council meeting, Long said while Metro members are not “fettered” by the wishes of their councils, “I’ll do my very best to have it overturned on Friday.”
Long also said it was a “bit misleading” to call the retirement allowance for Metro directors who step down or are defeated a pension.
Following the City council meeting, Storteboom said he would be voting against the March resolution that contained the controversial measure.
“That’s my intention,” Storteboom said.
He added the issue was “kind of complicated” because the same resolution that approved the retirement allowance also included a pay adjustment for Metro directors in order to make up for federal income tax changes.
It appeared both would have to be voted down, Storteboom said.
The retirement allowance was intended to be the equivalent to the pension contribution a Metro Vancouver employee would receive, amounting to 10.2 per cent of earnings, or about $1,100 a year going back to 2007 for all members who choose to leave or are not re-elected.
A report to the board by the chief financial officer of the regional district, Phil Trotzuk, said a review by staff found there was a retirement benefit or pension equivalent for municipal politicians in six of the municipalities that are members of the Metro Vancouver regional district (including Surrey, Port Coquitlam and Vancouver), as well as in many municipalities in other provinces, and all municipalities in Quebec.
Politicians elected to provincial legislatures and the federal government also get pensions, the report noted.
The overall financial impact to the budget was projected to be about $498,000 with future costs of about $62,500 a year.
Storteboom noted Metro Vancouver is the regional service provider that is under the direction of 23 local authorities to set policy and act as a political forum.
“Directors are required to set policy for a wide variety of departments including but not limited to our regional water, sewer, solid waste, parks, air quality and a housing corporation with over 50 sites for 9,000 people.”
He said decisions made at the Metro Vancouver Board deal with total assets of more than $6.3 billion and an expense budget that is currently over $761 million.
Storteboom estimated attending all of his scheduled Metro Vancouver Board and Committee meetings in 2017 produced total gross earnings of $13,428.63 or about $1,125. per month.
“In my opinion, serving at local government is an honour and a privilege but, there are still bills to pay,” he said.
Metro Vancouver board members are appointed from the city councils of member cities. They receive a per-meeting stipend for the part-time position of $387 for meetings up to four hours and $775 for meetings over four hours.
All municipalities were affected by the 2017 federal budget, in which the government announced a tax break for municipal politicians would be eliminated, saying the tax exemptions for non-accountable expense allowances “is only available to certain provincial, territorial and municipal office holders, and provides an advantage that other Canadians do not enjoy.”
The one-third tax-free expense allowance was introduced in 1947 under the federal Income Tax Act to provide “an allowance for expenses incidental to the discharge of the person’s duties as an elected officer.”
Langley City council adjusted pay rates to reflect the change after an independent consultant found that the federal government decision would mean all the remuneration provided by the City would now be taxable.
As a result, the Mayor’s remuneration would need to increase 11 per cent to keep the same net pay he had before the federal government’s change.
– with files from Miranda Gathercole and Black Press