By ROY WOOD
Osoyoos mayor and council voted themselves a substantial pay raise on Monday less than halfway through their mandate, which began in December 2014.
The largest bump – 15 per cent — goes to Mayor Sue McKortoff, whose annual stipend jumps to $27,142. She was elected mayor in November 2014 after one three-year term as a councillor.
In an interview following Monday’s council meeting, Mayor McKortoff said the pay raise was based on an ”increased work load,” particularly in relation to the crisis earlier this year when it looked as though Osoyoos Secondary School might close.
She said town financial services director Jim Zakall surveyed a number of other municipalities to gather comparisons of mayor and councillor remuneration levels.
“The (Osoyoos) mayor’s salary was quite a ways down there,” she said.
The detailed report that Mr. Zakall prepared for council was presented at an earlier in-camera council meeting and was not released Monday. Rather, a cryptic, two-page memo was attached to the meeting agenda.
Regarding what was in Mr. Zakall’s detailed report, McKortoff advised a reporter: “You can find that information by phoning people in other communities, if you wanted to.”
The last time council remuneration was on the agenda was in 2011, when a volunteer committee of Osoyoos residents studied the issue at the request of council. (Editor’s note: Roy Wood was a member of the committee.)
The 2011 committee examined council remuneration in towns of similar size to Osoyoos. It found that the stipends of both council and the mayor were in the top 25 per cent.
The committee recommended no pay increase other than ongoing cost-of-living adjustments.
Asked why Council decided this time not use such an arm’s-length public committee, the mayor said: “I don’t know why. It was just brought up at one of our meetings (and) could we have a look at what other communities were paying their councillors and their mayor because we seem to be doing a whole ton of work. …
“It was just decided among the five of us, and we asked to have a report brought back on this. … We didn’t think (a public study) was necessary.”
The four councillors voted themselves a five-per-cent increase, bringing their annual compensation to $16,543.
CJ Rhodes has been on council since 2008. Mike Campol, Jim King and Carol Youngberg were elected or the first time in 2014.
Councillors and the mayor are also paid per diems for out of town meetings.
The new pay levels take effect in January 2017.