So You want to be on City Council – Part 3: The Benefits of Victory

Ron Bolin: Feb. 13, 2011

So now you have spent considerable time attending City Council, Finance Policy Committee of the whole meetings as well as those of a number of other city committees in which you may be interested to determine the issues with which  Council is currently grappling and add these to those which you see but Council apparently does not.  You have combed through agendas and minutes sufficiently to identify the mechanisms by which issues are brought to Council and how they are handled there.  You have familiarized yourself with the city’s Official Community Plan (OCP), and its major bylaws.  You are knowledgeable about the Community Charter and your role in the city governance as well as that of staff.  You have made your positions on issues known by speaking at Council and in letters to the editor.  You have read George Cuff’s books on municipal governance:   Cuff’s Guide for Municipal Leaders: A Survival Guide for Elected Officials; and Cuff’s Guide for Municipal Leaders: The Case for Effective Governance and have internalized his observations on that subject.

If your hard work and campaign efforts have brought you to election victory, you can look forward to more hard work using your knowledge, your intelligence, your innovation, your people skills, your endurance and your conscience in the service of your community:  all of which may often not only be ignored, but actually on occasion reviled.

However, there are benefits which go with winning.  Aside from the prestige and position in the community which has been given to you, and the power lent to you to shape events in our community, there are also tangible benefits.  While you may not get rich, neither will you be poor, remembering that you may in all cases keep your day job or pension benefits –and that one third of your pay is tax free.

I will keep here to the published figures, so the latest published data is from the city’s  SOFI (Statement of Financial Information) document of 2009. I do not believe that the figures have altered substantially since that time.

City of Nanaimo:

Income Source….Taxable              Non Taxable             Taxable               Expenses

Mayor …………….. .$54,331.60 …. $27,165.80…….. $1,152.00……….$5,674.24

Councillors (8)…. $18,041.23…….. $9,020.61…….. $1,152.00 (4)…$4,010.49 (avg)

Regional District of Nanaimo: [Seven of the nine Council Members]

RDN Board………….$7074.84 (avg)..$3537.42 (avg)…….-0-……………$140.98 (avg)

Total Remuneration:

Mayor (+RDN)…………………….$91,497.53

Councillors (RDN = 6)…………$37,674.10

Councillors ( 2, no RDN)……..$27,061.84

Note: The median income level in Nanaimo in 2005 was $23,463 ( and was $29,274 in 2008 according to the Nanaimo Economic Development Office (2010).  There is an error or the use of non-equivalent definitions in one or both of these figures.  Incomes did not grow this fast in Nanaimo.

The taxable benefit taken by four of our Councillors is their addition to the very generous health benefits which are enjoyed by city employees.  While expenses may provide travel, rooms and meals at conferences, etc., they are not included in income as they represent monies spent in pursuit of the purposes of the city.  Additional benefits which are provided include provision of a computer and a blackberry for use during a Councillor’s term.  Some parking perks are also provided for official duties.

If one compares the remuneration received by Councillors, remembering the basic time requirements of the position discussed in part 1; that Council is not charged with running the city (that is the job of staff) but with setting the vision and the policies and procedures which staff are to use in their operation of the city (much as the board of any other corporation) the remuneration is not bad, particularly remembering that fully one third of the sum is not taxed and exceeds, by itself, the income of more than half of the citizens of Nanaimo.  And in addition Council members can keep their day jobs and their pensions.  On the other hand being on Council is a job which can expand to fill all of one’s time if they are so inclined.  It is certainly an important job and deserves our consideration and our respect.