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Sparwood mayor says he and council should be paid ‘what we’re worth’

Councillors would be paid $20K, and the mayor $45K if they support their own recommendation
District of Sparwood flags out front of Sparwood municipal offices. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Sparwood’s mayor and council members will likely see a pay increase in the coming years.

During committee of the whole discussion on August 2, Mayor David Wilks argued for the district’s elected officials to stop selling themselves short.

“We have to start paying ourselves what we’re worth, and what we’re responsible for,” he said.

Wilks was opposed to a community working group recommendation to only adjust council wages equal to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), with a maximum increase of 2.5 percent annually.

Wage reviews of elected officials come every four years, towards the end of a council’s term.

His comments came after the majority of his fellow councillors expressed support for the working group recommendation. In 2021, Sparwood councillors were paid $16,320, while the mayor was paid $37,780.

Wilks based his argument on a belief that elected officials were not paid enough for their time in attending meetings and events, fielding community comments and concerns and being on call as community leaders everywhere they went – in addition to the amount of financial and decision-making power they held.

“I think that we underestimate the value of what we provide as a service to the community and the responsibilities we hold,” he said, listing off the district’s operating budget of $13.5 million, capital budget of $23 million and asset management at $125 million.

“We’re the ones that do all the money. We’re the ones that decide what goes forward and what doesn’t. We’re the ones that get phone calls all the time.”

He argued against comparing Sparwood to neighbouring municipalities, or municipalities with similar population numbers, citing Sparwood’s powers over the environmental assessment of the Elkview coal mine to the immediate east of the community and within the district’s border.

“We’re the ones that decide whether that – up there – can go or not.”

He conceded it was difficult for councillors to green-light a pay raise for themselves given they were some of the few people that could, but reiterated the responsibilities attached.

He added that the way elected officials were currently paid was unfair in that it meant the positions were only available to those that were either retired, wealthy, or could give up full-time working hours to attend to their duties.

Wilks suggested that council members be paid a base wage of $20,000 annually going forward, while the mayor role get paid $45,000 – increases of $3,680, and $7,220 respectively (before tax).

His plea had an impact, with the majority of Sparwood council members agreeing with him after he was done.

Councillor Jason Christensen – who was already in favour of an increase – noted that (after taxes) such an increase amounted to about 25 percent. “That 25 percent doesn’t raise an alarm to me, as an accountant who is cheap,” he said.

The majority of the council supported recommending a $45K mayor wage, $20K councillor wage, and up to 2.5 percent annual increase tied to the CPI starting in 2023, which will cover the next council and not the existing one. Only councillor Ron Saad expressed opposition, saying that the wages were fine as they were.

Watch the full meeting here. Dicussion about council remineration begins at 17:20, and goes to 50:07.

Sparwood councillors will vote on the recommendation at a coming council meeting. Any increase in wages will apply from 2023 onward (after the 2022 election) up to the next review towards the end of the next term.

READ MORE: Sparwood releases financial information for 2021
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