For the first time, Delta council members will be leaving office not only with a hearty pat on the back, but also some extra money in their pocket.
In January 2017, council voted to give themselves and future councils a “Council Service Benefit,” sometimes called a “golden handshake,” which acts as the equivalent of a pension. Upon leaving office, elected members will receive an amount equal to what the city’s contribution to the municipal pension plan would be if they were treated as employees.
“After all these years I’ve been on council, people say ‘Oh now you can have your pension,’” Mayor Lois Jackson said over the phone. “And I said, ‘No, we don’t get any of that.’”
In Delta, the mayor and council members are not eligible to join the city’s pension plan. The service benefit comes instead of that. It is only applicable for up to 12 years of continuous service, and is given out when a member leaves council.
“It always is a bit of a sticky wicket because no one really likes to be setting their own salaries, if you would,” Jackson said.
This year, Mayor Lois Jackson, Counc. Heather King and Counc. Ian Paton will be recieving the benefit for sure. All other councillors are either running for mayor or re-election, and would only get the benefit if they did not make it back into council.
Jackson is eligible to recieve $124,153. King is eligible for $19,820. Paton, if he served out the 2018 term, which he will not do, would have been eligible for $39,511.
The remaining councillors, if they do not return to council, will be eligible for the following: $33,958 for Sylvia Bishop, $54,991 for Robert Campbell, $34,199 for Jeannie Kanakos and $48,978 for Bruce McDonald.
The benefit, voted in without discussion in January 2017, was first put forward in December of 2016 by staff.
Staff looked at 17 different municipalities and found that seven offer some kind of end of service benefit. Many of these mimic municipal staff pensions.
“We’re the same as all other cities,” Jackson said. “Many of them have different methods of giving a retiring allowance.”
However, the lack of discussion at the council meeting has been a problem for some.
“I think maybe a bit more information about the decision-making process would have helped,” current councillor Jeannie Kanakos said. Kanakos is running for council in the upcoming election with the Independents Working for You slate.
“It’s a good point that there wasn’t discussion at the main table, and I think we should have done more in expressing our views.”
Those views largely centre on the need to attract quality candidates to a position that is no longer a volunteer job.
“Delta is a city in transition. We’re a city now,” Kanakos said. “There was a day when folks kept a full-time job and then served on council kind of on the side, out of interest to kind of volunteer and give back.
“However, when you’re required and responsible for the needs of 102,000 residents, it’s a big job. And you need to put the time in to do it right.”
Jackson echoed Kanakos’ comments.
“We are one of the most diverse municipalities in Metro Vancouver,” Jackson said. “We have to govern everything from the largest container terminal to … the two major crossings.”
“So you can see how busy we are,” she continued. “It takes a lot of commitment. It takes a lot of work.”
Delta’s three communities also play a role in increasing the workload for mayor and council, Jackson said.
“If we have one Santa Claus breakfast, I have three,” she explained.
By adding an end of service benefit, Kanakos and Jackson said they hoped to make the position more attractive to future candidates.
“We want young people … to be able to come and run and work,” Kanakos said. “Anytime someone’s job hunting, you always kind of go, ‘Will I be able to make ends meet on this?’”
“Many of us, myself [included], left a job as manager to take on the office of mayor,” Jackson said. “I never thought I would be here that long … but all those years would have been certainly a lot more lucrative in terms of remuneration than what I got at the council table.”
Currently, Delta’s mayor is paid $118,874 a year and Delta councillors are paid $50,470.