Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West won’t have to wait until he leaves office to bolster his retirement savings after councillors approved a plan to convert a transition allowance to regular payments throughout the year.
In 2015, council approved a transition allowance for the mayor’s job equivalent to one month of pay for every year to a maximum of six months. The allowance was to be paid out at the end of the mayor’s term in office.
(How much did Port Coquitlam bureaucrats make last year? Details at bottom of story.)
Now, instead of a transition allowance after he leaves the top official job, West will receive a retiring allowance on each paycheque based on an amount equal to the employer’s rate for the municipal pension plan.
Council unanimously approved the policy change Tuesday night, even though it will cost slightly more than the old plan.
“The amount of time the mayor’s put in, putting their career on hold, I think it’s a great gesture to have a person make a contribution to an RRSP or a retirement savings,” said Coun. Dean Washington. “It’s a lot of work,” he said of the mayor’s job.
10% retirement top up now instead of waiting
The change means West will receive a top-up of $12,906.70 each year to his annual salary of $129,067 — up from $10,755 on the old plan — with the money broken up into individual payments and added to each pay.
West, whose wife, Blaire, recently gave birth to their second son, was not at the meeting.
Other councils make similar payments, according to a staff report, either as a lump sum payment or as payments equal to the employer’s rate for the municipal pension plan throughout the year.
(Previously, former mayor Greg Moore received $48,376 based on his $96,752 salary when he left council for the private sector in 2018.)
In Burnaby, the city pays the mayor a retiring allowance on each cheque in lieu of a pension and in New Westminster, outgoing politicians get 10% of their annual compensation for each year they served in office, according to the Burnaby Now.
Burnaby, New Westminster offer similar retiring allowances for politicians
In Port Coquitlam, councillors were supportive of the idea of the mayor receiving a 10% retiring allowance on each cheque.
Coun. Glenn Pollock also suggested the funds already accrued — $26,000 — be paid out now too, to give West an option to put the funds into retirement savings.
Noting that West is no longer working his United Steelworkers’ communication job (West has taken a leave from the position), Pollock said it makes sense for West to put money aside for his pension as he won’t be “accruing that” from his other job.
Meanwhile, the councillors who attended the May 8 meeting (Coun. Laura Dupont was also absent) approved the city’s Statement of Financial Information (SOFI), which shows the city paid out $2 million less in salaries in 2020, due to the impact of COVID-19 on jobs.
“The impact of COVID-19 was the main contributing factor affecting the 2020 employee remuneration compared to the prior year. There was an overall reduction in base, benefits and expenses due to the reduction of staff and temporary site closures,” according to a staff report.
PORT COQUITLAM SALARY PAYOUTS DROP DUE TO COVID-19
In all, $19.7 million was paid in salaries to municipal workers making over $75,000 a year, and $11 million to those making less than that amount, for a payroll total of $32.7 million.
The SOFI statement also includes information about salaries, including those of city staff, the mayor and councillors as well as what the city pays to contractors. (In 2018, Tri-City councils, including PoCo, increased salaries to offset the loss of the tax-free portion of their salaries.)
The top paid bureaucrats (including base, benefits and other compensation and expenses) were:
1. Kristen Dixon, chief administrative officer: $246,429
2. Karen Grommada, acting chief administrative officer/finance director: $195,163
3. Robert Kipps, fire chief: $194,356
4. Forrest Smith, director of engineering and operations: $174,449
5. Randy Minaker, deputy fire chief protection services and public education: $167,712
6. Lori Bowie, director of recreation: $167,119
7. Stephen Traviss, director of human resources: $164,080
8. Jeffrey Sweet, deputy fire chief operations and training: $162,577
9. Lisa Grant, director of development services: $162,235
10. John Macdonald, deputy fire chief facilities and training: $161,533
Recently, Rob Bremner replaced Dixon as chief administrative officer.