Fraser Valley Regional District office on Cheam Avenue in Chilliwack. (Paul Henderson/The Progress)

FVRD directors urged to give selves another raise

Pay has gone up 40 per cent over two years, but report says directors once again underpaid

Just three years after approving a dramatic increase to their cumulative pay, politicians serving on the Fraser Valley Regional District are being urged to give themselves another raise.

Pay for FVRD directors jumped by 40 per cent between 2014/15 and 2016/17 The News reported earlier this year, with municipal directors like those from Abbotsford and Chilliwack receiving the sharpest increase. But now, after other regional districts gave their elected officials significant pay increases, FVRD staff are once again urging politicians serving here to boost their remuneration.

In a report to the board, FVRD chief administrative officer Paul Gipps said the district was asked “numerous times” to undertake a study of director compensation. The resulting study compared the FVRD to nine other regional districts and found pay for Fraser Valley elected officials was the lowest of nine other boards.

Now staff have given three options for board pay, the priciest of which would increase pay for municipal directors by 69 per cent and electoral area directors by 79 per cent. The lowest would see municipal directors receive no substantial pay increase, but would still result in electoral area directors getting a 22 per cent raise.

The FVRD would adopt a new base pay for all directors, and then give top-ups for electoral area representatives, for the board chair and vice-chair, and for participating on various committees.

Gipps wrote in his report to council: “The options identified in this report based upon the lowest comparisons are not intended to reflect how I see this board’s valuation. These options were chosen to limit the impact and optics of this difficult decision before you.”

The board will vote on the measure in a committee of the whole meeting today (Wednesday) at 5 p.m.

The recommendation to boost directors’ pay comes less than a year after a two-step increase voted on in 2014 took full effect. That measure increased total remuneration for the 33 board members from $264,003 in 2014/15 to $368,464 last year. It was done after a staff report suggested municipal members were compensated less than those at other regional districts, with directors suggesting their pay should reflect the FVRD’s status as the province’s third largest regional district.

A 2016 analysis by The News showed that among the eight largest regional districts, the FVRD spent the largest share of its budget on politicians. Last year, expenses and pay for directors accounted for 2.3 per cent of the FVRD’s $19.5 million in expenditures.

Neither the staff report for the FVRD board nor the consultants’ study explained why politicians in the Fraser Valley were comparatively underpaid just three years after addressing the situation with a pay hike.

So The News looked into it.

Using the reports, though, from 2014 and 2017, The News found the situation is likely due to pay bumps for politicians at other regional districts – particularly in the Victoria region. Between 2014 and 2016, average pay for municipal directors at the nine regional districts used in the FVRD consultants’ report increased 40 per cent. And those averages are likely heavily influenced by significant pay bumps at the largest comparator used in the study. Total pay for the 21 directors serving on the Capital Regional District more than doubled between 2014 and 2016.

Neither Mayor Henry Braun, who serves on the board of directors and would also get a $7,500 pay bump for chairing the regional district’s hospital board, nor FVRD vice-chair Patricia Ross were available for comment Tuesday.

The FVRD’s proposed approach to pay is significantly different than a new policy adopted by the City of Abbotsford last year. That policy tied politicians’ pay to residents’ wages, meaning the pay for mayor and council will rise or fall with that of their constituents, not of politicians at other municipalities.


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tolsen@abbynews.com

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Fraser Valley Regional District office on Cheam Avenue in Chilliwack. (Paul Henderson/The Progress)

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