Victoria councillor suggests council duties should be reduced if pay isn’t raised

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The Victoria city councillor who supported a pay raise for himself and his fellow council members says council duties should be reduced if pay is held at part-time rates.

That includes councillors making themselves less available to the public and the media, according to a statement posted by Coun. Ben Isitt Tuesday.

“This would allow councillors to focus their part-time hours on core duties of attending council and committee meetings and reading staff reports to supervise municipal operations,” Isitt wrote.

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In an interview Thursday, Isitt said council should have waited for a scheduled review of government operations in 2020 before exploring the idea of a pay hike.

“I think that’s the next step, and in the context of that governance review we look at councillor duties,” he said.

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“Once that review is complete, then I think we look at the question of compensation.”

The city’s public consultation on next year’s municipal budget included an online survey, which asked if council wages should be increased to $70,100 a year.

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That wage would bring councillors in line with the median salary for municipal employees — and would be a more than 50 per cent increase from councillors’ current salaries and benefits, which total around $45,000.

Out of 5,100 area residents and business owners who responded to the survey, 86 per cent disagreed with the proposed pay hike.

Isitt says he still supports the idea, but admits posing a question like that to the public was not the right approach.

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“I think it was a little naive that we could just ask a question to the public and not sort of have a bunch of angst develop,” he said.

“It wasn’t about me. I did sort of stick my neck out by raising the issue, but I guess that’s a part of the job.”

But other councillors like Jeremy Loveday say they’re comfortable with the duties they’re given based on their pay.

“I knew what I was getting into when I was signing up for this job, and I enjoy it,” Loveday said.

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Isitt says the survey should have instead asked the public what duties councillors should be responsible for, which would then help determine an appropriate salary.

In the meantime, he’s suggesting a shift to night time meetings, similar to what has been done in Saanich.

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Isitt adds he continues to support the idea of a pay raise. He notes that in addition to the 15-30 hours a week he and other councillors spend attending council, committee and board meetings, he also spends five to 20 hours a week reading staff reports ahead of those meetings.

He also argues 15 to 35 hours a week are spent responding to correspondence and phone calls from the public and media, as well as individual meetings with stakeholders.

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