Most Vancouver city councillors say they will follow Mayor Kennedy Stewart’s lead and take a 10% pay cut to help achieve some savings in the city’s operating budget.
The move by seven councillors comes after Stewart announced near the end of council’s Tuesday meeting that he will bring forward a motion at the April 28 meeting to request a 10% cut to his $178,265 salary.
Councillors’ base salary this year is $88,250. If the mayor and council proceed with the pay cuts, it will mean an estimated total savings of $108,000.
“It’s a symbolic show of solidarity, recognizing that everybody’s making sacrifices and it’s a tough time for everybody in the city,” Coun. Pete Fry told Glacier Media Friday.
“To be frank, the cuts in and of themselves are not huge. At the end of the day, the real discounts aren’t going to be coming from us taking a pay cut, it’s going to come from the tough decisions we have to make in the weeks and months ahead.”
Even so, Fry noted that he and Coun. Melissa De Genova discussed the possibility of cuts from councillors’ discretionary budgets, which are worth $30,000 each for a total of $300,000.
A 10% across-the-board cut would equate to another $30,000 in savings from those budgets, which have been used to hire political staff and pay for research.
Debate over that cut is expected at council’s April 28 meeting, which will be the fifth virtual meeting since the pandemic triggered physical distancing measures and directly affected the city’s revenues.
Meanwhile, councillors De Genova, Rebecca Bligh, Sarah Kirby-Yung, Adriane Carr, Lisa Dominato and Christine Boyle told Glacier Media via email or telephone Friday they will take a 10% cut to their salaries.
De Genova: “I think it’s the right thing to do, especially in light of the union layoffs and the 10% work reduction for non-union staff.”
Bligh: “It’s an appropriate symbolic measure, and I will be supportive and willing to include myself in this motion to receive a 10% wage reduction. It is worth stating we also need to look at the overall budget and find other ways to balance and manage our finances during this time.”
Kirby-Yung: “It’s important to lead by example and recognize the hurt that is being felt pervasively across the city, and the [City of Vancouver] is not immune. All savings are good savings, but it’s not going to get us to the level of spending reduction we need to get to.”
Carr: “If we are asking our staff to take a hit to save money, those of us who can should do our bit, too. The mayor’s move signals that our political leadership is in sync with the whole city team.”
Dominato: “Let’s be clear, this measure alone will not address the systemic financial pressures identified by our staff over the past five years; they foreshadowed a growing gap between our expenses and revenues. As I urged the mayor to do in December, we need to examine our cost structures and service delivery to find efficiencies and ensure a more sustainable budget.”
Boyle: “The mayor and council taking a pay cut during this tough time, in line with other city cuts, is just one piece of us showing up for residents and for staff, even while we are working harder than ever to support residents and plan for a fair and just economic recovery.”
Coun. Jean Swanson, who has donated a portion of her salary to various groups since she was elected, said she wasn’t sure whether she will agree to a 10% pay cut.
“For me, it’s a matter of: Do I give the money to the city, or someone else who I think needs it, which is what I’ve been doing,” Swanson said in an email.
Councillors Michael Wiebe and Colleen Hardwick couldn’t be reached before this story was posted.
The moves by the mayor and most councillors to take a pay cut comes after a city staff report revealed earlier this month that the city is losing $4 million to $5 million per week in revenues.
Those losses are directly connected to the city closing community centres, libraries, ice rinks, pools and other city facilities, along with suspending parking enforcement for most of Vancouver.
As of Thursday, the city had temporarily laid off 1,800 union employees. Management and other non-unionized employees are also taking a mandatory 10% cut to their salaries in the form of an unpaid day off every 10 days.