CITY of North Vancouver council members are tweaking the way their annual pay increases are calculated.
Council members got into the frequently sticky conversation at Monday's meeting with disagreement over whether council pay increases should be tied to labour agreements with pubic sector unions, the consumer price index or the average increases in other Lower Mainland municipalities.
Council will now base its increases on one-third of the city's negotiated raise for the Canadian Union of Public Employees, one-third of the International Association of Fire Fighters' increase and one-third of Vancouver's consumer price index increase.
A citizens' committee recommended the formula in 2005, but despite soliciting the group's input council has ventured away from the formula almost every year since, at times linking pay hikes to just one union contract, or raises for non-union managers at the city.
"We're at the point that we are now because council, in its infinite wisdom, decided to muck around with the formula in 2007 and so we are now trying to decide on options without citizen input," Coun. Rod Clark said.
"As far as I'm concerned, it's a difficult thing for council to be responsible for its own pay increase. We have very judiciously and, I think, wisely asked a citizens' committee in 2005 to come up with a framework. They did so. I don't see why we don't respect that," he said.
The majority on council agreed with Clark's reasoning, including Mayor Darrell Mussatto and Couns. Linda Buchanan and Craig Keating who noted that tying the increases to things outside council's direct control was meant to wash the process of the "taint of conflict."
In 2011, the mayor's remuneration was $93,325 while councillors took home $32,284. Council raises have been in range of two to four per cent each year since 2005.
The increase for 2012 won't be known until after the 2012 CPI has been crunched and labour agreements with the two unions are reached.
Negotiations with CUPE and IAFF are ongoing, according to city staff.
The three dissenters each had their own ideas about how council should calculate an annual increase.
Indexing pay raises with the average wage of all other similar sized municipalities in the Lower Mainland would demonstrate that City of North Vancouver council members are never voting themselves a raise outpacing the local average, Coun. Don Bell argued.
Coun. Guy Heywood, meanwhile, said that council should be able to justify any wage increase it gets.
"I think we should take responsibility by simply setting a number having in mind the tax burden we are inflicting on our citizens... rather than seeking some mechanistic formula that takes the responsibility away from us. We should make the decisions . . ." he said.
Coun. Pam Bookham pushed for tying the increase to the CPI, as it is typically lower than union increases.
"Given the expenses that are covered for us, given that our responsibilities have not greatly increased, two per cent is more than reasonable," she said.
Council is expected to revisit the issue at the March 4 council meeting after the 2012 CPI increase has been calculated, according to Connie Rabold, the city's communications manager.