Seven remains the magic number as far as Rossland city council is concerned.
This week council considered and quickly rejected the idea of reducing their numbers from seven to five by eliminating two councillor positions.
Councillor Janice Nightingale said that a smaller council would come at the expense of the diversity of opinions around the table and create an increased workload for the remaining councillors.
“Reducing council when the community is growing doesn’t make sense,” she said. “Saving money at a reduction of capacity doesn’t seem to support the community long term.”
She added that it may make it more difficult to attract council candidates.
Councillor Terry Miller, who joined council in a by-election last year, said that in his “limited time” he has found a “diversity of thought and the number seems to be a good mix. I’m happy with seven. Imagining a council of five, there would be increased pressure and lack of diversity would be a problem.”
Councillor Stewart Spooner also preferred the “status quo all the way.”
“I’ve been been on a lot of boards over the years and questions of increasing or decreasing the size of the board are often considered,” he said. “Every time I’ve looked at it, I always base it on the best quality decision making. The financial implications not that considerable. Everything I’ve looked at says seven is the perfect number.”
Councillor Andy Morel said the committee work involved is “substantial” and “paring down doesn’t make sense.”
The idea of reducing council’s numbers was also reviewed by the previous council in 2017 with the same outcome. City manager Bryan Teasdale explained they brought the issue back ahead of a regular review of remuneration for elected officials.
Among other local cities, Trail, Castlegar, Grand Forks, and Nelson all have seven-member councils while villages have councils of five. One anomaly is Greenwood, which is a city, but has a five-member council.
A staff report indicated the city spent $85,000 in 2021 on council remuneration ($20,700 for the mayor and $64,000 for councillors combined) plus another $4,000 on discretionary expenses. Therefore dropping two councillors would save about $22,000 per year, barring any other stipend adjustments.
Changing the number of councillors would require adopting a new bylaw and would only take effect after the next election in 2022. It would also need electoral assent through a counterpetition process.
Mayor Kathy Moore said she was “glad we had the discussion. It’s been raised a number of times in the community by various people. It’s good that everyone’s quite aligned.”