Should the acting mayor for the City of Langley receive the same salary boosts that the former mayor would have been entitled to, or should payment for the position be capped at its current level?
The question became the centre of a heated debate on Wednesday evening, when council met to elect an acting mayor to replace Mayor Peter Fassbender, who took a leave of absence last month to serve as MLA for Surrey-Fleetwood.
It wasn’t the dollar figure that caused dissent among the City’s six remaining council members, however, but Councillor Dave Hall’s determination to speak about the municipality’s remuneration policies during the special meeting held on July 31.
Councillor Ted Schaffer was elected to the position, which he will carry out for the next 16 months.
Prior to the vote, however, Hall introduced a motion to hold the acting mayor’s pay at the 2013 rate, for the entire 16 months remaining on the term.
Hall argued that while the acting mayor should receive 100 per cent of the compensation due the mayor for 2013, they should not be eligible for a raise the following year, even if one is called for under the City’s council remuneration policy.
“Some people may look at this appointment as not being worthy of 100 per cent of the mayor’s remuneration,” said Hall. He said it could be argued that at the beginning of each three-year term, the workload is heavier, as strategic plans are being developed.
Hall said that while he agreed that the acting mayor should receive the full amount of the salary due the mayor for the remainder of 2013, he couldn’t support a raise the following year when there is no way to determine how much it would be.
“The public deserves to know what the acting mayor will make,” he said.
Hall’s motion was defeated in a 5-1 vote.
A subsequent motion put forward by Councillor Teri James called for the new acting mayor to receive the same 2013 salary as the former mayor would have received – again, pro-rated to July 31 – as well as be eligible for any pay bump that might occur in 2014.
“I struggle with the idea of not paying our acting mayor what our existing mayor would make,” said James.
“I believe the intention is for that person to step up and perform as the previous mayor would have . . . . If there had been a byelection, that individual would have received the same remuneration, no question.”
According to figures provided by Hall at the meeting, the mayor’s base salary for 2013 is $78,345.
In addition, he noted the mayor receives $500 for each mayor’s council meeting, in addition to receiving compensation for attending other meetings.
One third of the mayor’s pay is tax exempt.
As is the case with many communities in the Lower Mainland, the City of Langley’s remuneration policy is tied to the pay rates of councils in other Lower Mainland municipalities.
“The remuneration policy is flawed,” said Hall.
He acknowledged that while it was well intentioned when it was adopted in 2007, because the mayor was making in the neighbourhood of $44,000 at the time, the pay rate had risen at an unacceptable rate as a result.
By 2013, the salary for the position had climbed by 77 per cent, he noted.
“This is a council that has failed to address the compounding taxation in the City and, as a component of that, the rapidly escalating remuneration for the mayor,” said Hall.
As Hall spoke, both during discussion of his own motion, as well as that of James, he was challenged by both James and deputy mayor Gayle Martin, who ruled his remarks out of order.
“We are not here to discuss existing policy,” said James.
“We’re not talking about how policy comes about,” said Martin.
“We all know you don’t like the policy.”
Hall argued that Martin had no right to call him out of order for discussing remuneration policy while the acting mayor’s pay was being set. He challenged the ruling, but his effort received no seconder and died.
However, he continued to speak until Martin, speaking over of him, called the question on James’ motion. It passed in a 5-1 vote, with only Hall opposed.