After eight years of no change to their remuneration, Houston council has approved an increase to their annual indemnity starting next year.
Although the District of Houston’s annual indemnity bylaw sets out that the remuneration paid to council will be increased by the B.C. Consumer Index each year, the district’s current and previous councils since 2010 have chosen to waive the increase.
Effective Jan. 1, 2019, the indemnity for the mayor will increase from $15,783 to $18,000 while the councillors’ stipend will increase from $7,891 to $9,000.
Council has also decided to increase their travel per diem - provided by the district for incidental expenses such as meals, phone and Internet - from $75 to $82.50 for any part day up to and including half day, and from $150 to $165 for any part day beyond half day up to and including a full day. These changes are also effective Jan. 1, 2019.
Earlier this year the district decided to form a task force to examine council’s remuneration. However, after district staff issued a call for expressions of interest in May and June, only one citizen was interest in joining the task force.
The interested citizen, along with Houston’s chief administrative officer and the director of finance, formed a committee to review council’s remuneration. They compared the elected officials’ current indemnity to a small sample of council indemnities for municipalities with a population less than 10,000.
In Burns Lake, a municipality of similar size and population, the annual remuneration for the position of mayor is $17,762 while each councillor is paid $8,373 annually.
The committee also reviewed the expected financial impacts to elected officials after changes to the tax system become effective next year.
After Jan. 1, 2019, non-accountable allowances will become fully taxable, which means that elected officials will lose their one-third tax-free allowance. For each councillor in Houston, the financial impact of losing their tax-free allowance will be of approximately $737 while the mayor will lose about $1,473.
“This represents approximately a 9.3 per cent impact to net take-home pay for elected officials,” states a committee report, adding that Houston council should be compensated as a result of the changes in the tax system.
Starting next year, council’s travel per diem will also become fully taxable.
“The committee felt a small increase to the per diem rates to offset the tax implications is warranted at this time.”