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Port Moody councillors vote themselves a pay raise

The pay for Port Moody Mayor Meghan Lahti will increase from $126,360 to $142,970.
Port Moody councillors voted themselves a pay raise at their special meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 5.

Just in time for Christmas, Port Moody councillors have voted themselves a pay raise.

The boost means Mayor Meghan Lahti’s base annual salary goes to $142,970 from its current $126,360, while councillors — who are part time — will make $54,720.

The increases are retroactive to Jan. 1 of this year.

In a report, Angie Parnell, the city’s general manager of corporate services, said other than annual adjustments to keep pace with Vancouver’s consumer price index, council’s compensation hasn’t been increased since 2014, although a change in federal rules in 2017 necessitated a former tax-free allowance be shifted into their base pay.

But one councillor questioned whether the time is right for council to catch up, given Port Moody’s budgetary challenges and the daily financial struggles residents are facing with inflation and other pressures.

"I have concerns about the size and timing of the recommended increase," said Coun. Kyla Knowles, adding everyone at the table knew what kind of pay they’d be getting when they decided to run for election.

Knowles suggested the pain to taxpayers’ pocketbooks could be eased if the increase didn’t become effective until the start of 2024 and was phased in over two years.

But the idea was rejected by the rest of her colleagues.

In her report, Parnell said the increase represents only a 0.14 per cent hit to the coming year’s proposed property tax bill.

Coun. Callan Morrison said their pay has to be competitive to attract capable candidates.

"A better wage may convince some people who are in careers to come forward to get involved with council," he said. "Our city does need to make sure we’re in line with any other job offering."

Coun. Diana Dilworth said councillors would be better served if the decision to boost their pay was taken out of their own hands and instead left to a regular review conducted by staff.

"That’s a problem we need to refocus on," she said. "We need consistent approaches to council remuneration."

Indeed, Parnell’s report recommended just such an approach, with the city’s human resources staff overseeing a market review every six years.

The idea was bolstered by Morrison.

"The less individual councillors can be involved in this, the better for transparency," he said, as his colleagues voted in favour of an amendment enacting a new policy for a regular review process.