The Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) is going to change the pay structure for its board of directors, as proposed in a task force report presented at the board’s Jan. 14 regular meeting.
Starting this April, directors will be paid a base salary, but will not be compensated in addition on a per-meeting basis. As a result, the directors’ base salary will jump considerably, but their total pay – and the bottom-line cost for the SCRD – will remain basically the same.
A three-person Directors’ Remuneration Task Force was appointed in 2020 to “conduct a compensation review for the SCRD Chair and Directors and recommend a remuneration structure that recognizes the roles, responsibilities and time commitment necessary to fulfill their obligations as elected officials and meet public expectations in the performance of their duties,” the report said.
Task force members included Amanda List, Silas White, and Patricia York, all Sunshine Coast residents with consulting experience in human resources and administration in the public and private sectors. White was also an elected official for 13 years, including positions on the school board, Town of Gibsons Council, and as an SCRD director. All three volunteered their time in researching and compiling the report.
The task force researched the director pay scales and responsibilities of eight other B.C. regional districts of comparative size to the Sunshine Coast, in addition to the remuneration totals for SCRD directors since 2013. It found that elected-official pay rates in other jurisdictions were similar to the SCRD.
“It is the unanimous recommendation of the Remuneration Task Force that the SCRD board adopt annual stipends for municipal and electoral area directors, and supplemental stipends for the chair and vice-chair, that are based on defined roles rather than how many meetings, conferences, meetings chaired, etc. can be performed by nine individual directors (plus alternates) and exhaustively recorded by administrative personnel,” the report said.
Currently, basic compensation is based on a complex formula which varies for the nine directors on the board, depending on whether they represent a rural area, whether they are also on the municipal council of Sechelt or Gibsons, whether they chair the board itself, or chair one of the SCRD board’s six committees. There is also a flat fee of $135 for attending a meeting, which can increase if the meeting goes longer than three hours. Expenses for travel and attending conferences off-Coast are an added factor.
The average gross pay for directors since 2013 was found to be about $33,000 per year – although higher for the board chair and vice chair. With the proposed changes, the annual gross will be $33,363 for rural directors (in Pender Harbour, Halfmoon Bay, shíshálh Nation, Roberts Creek, Elphinstone, and West Howe Sound) and $23,354 for directors who are also municipal councillors in Sechelt or Gibsons, with a supplement of $23,354 for the board chair and $3,003 for the vice chair. An annual increase based on the cost-of-living index, currently about one per cent per year, was also proposed.
The report said the total cost of SCRD director compensation in 2019 was $298,515. That cost for 2021 – with the proposed new pay structure – is expected to be about $305,000, an increase of 2.2 per cent. A saving can be expected, however, from considerably reduced staff time in tracking data and calculating payments for meeting attendance.
White said there was much discussion among task force members about whether to incentivize attendance at meetings by leaving it in the pay structure. “If you make it an economic incentive to attend meetings, [directors] could say, well, 150 bucks isn’t worth my time today. I'll do my day-job because that’s worth more to me,’” said White. “As someone who’s done [the job], I found that it’s a stronger message to say, ‘This is the role over the entire term, over the entire year. This is what you get for the entire year, doing your job.’ And that’s why the written responsibilities are so important.”
The task force found that no job description had ever been written for SCRD directors. “We concluded that the role of each board position should be clearly defined and understood,” the report said. “We found that people were not exactly clear on all the elements of their role, necessarily.” A recommendation to draft job descriptions was among the proposals.
In light of the report’s findings and conclusions, SCRD staff made seven recommendations to the board. Directors voted to accept all seven, with Sechelt director Alton Toth opposed to the one recommendation that the new pay structure be adopted.
The task force also proposed some changes intended to streamline the SCRD’s governance model. The report can be found on the SCRD’s website in the agenda package for Jan. 14.