Council ‘levels playing field’ on remuneration

Mayor Lyn Hall
Mayor Lyn Hall

City council decided to provide accommodation for a federal tax change effectively reducing councillors’ remuneration, but no more.

Council on Monday accepted an independent committee recommendation to increase the mayor’s annual pay 22 per cent, from $103,218 per year to $122,382. In addition, councillors’ remuneration will increase 12 per cent, from $33,432 to $37,466.

Ottawa is eliminating the provision that one-third of elected officials’ remuneration is tax-free. The increases will offset the impact of the federal change.

“We’re not asking for any more money here,” said Coun. Brian Skakun when council discussed the issue Monday. “We’re just asking for a level playing field.”

The increase won’t take effect until next year, after a new council has been elected.

Coun. Albert Koehler supported the increase for the mayor, however wasn’t so sure city councillors needed more money.

“I think, generally, mayors are underpaid,” he said. “Certainly support for mayor. When it comes to councillors, the question is whether a councillor can making a living at it. The solution for the councillors is too high

Coun. Jillian Merrick, who treated her position on city council more as a job, was also supportive of the increase.

“It’s been part of my mandate to reveal what it’s like to be a government officer,” she said. She added that demographics are changing and that in 2019 millenials are set to outnumber baby boomers. The majority of the population will be under 40, she said, adding municipalities have to recognize that the majority of the population will be early working years.”

“Remuneration is an income for me,” she said. “I have had to work other part time jobs. Council has always been my primary employer.”

She said in first year on council she tracked her time, which worked out to 25 hours per week at $28 per hour, which may be attractive to some, but not others. She also pointed out being a councillor offers no medical benefits, parental leave, etc.

“It’s important to retain the remuneration, if don’t keep it, will be receiving a pay cut,” she said.

Council easily passed the decision to ‘level the playing field,’ however balked at actually giving itself a pay raise.

The committee, which consisted of Tim Drummond, Lee-Ann Mowbray, Cori Ramsay, Heather Sanford, and Harvey Smerychynski, also recommended giving the mayor a further 4.5 per cent pay increase, which would have brought the remuneration to $127,889, and giving council a six per cent increase, bringing the remuneration to $39,764.

Council agreed to the mayor’s stipend increase, but balked at giving city council a six per cent increase.

Skakun pointed out the city already has a bylaw for giving annual increases, which would still be in place should council give the six per cent increase.

“I am a bit challenged with going ahead with the additional six per cent (for council), because we are going to get 1.5 per cent in 2019,” said Skakun.

McConnachie agreed.

“I don’t think the intention (of citizens) is to add another nine full time people around the table,” said McConnachie. “This is not a wage, perhaps, that everyone can live on. Many of us have full time jobs … There is a large portion of what we do is absolute public service. It’s a privilege to be here.”

Mayor Lyn Hall agreed, saying the goal is not to lose ground.

“It is a difficult process (dealing with remuneration), there’s no doubt about it,” said Hall. “I’ve seen, over the year, that the job as an elected official had changed drastically. People want a piece of your time, and that goes along with the job and nobody complains about it. And that has increased exponentially.”

He added it’s more about keeping the status quo.

Council also agreed to increase the mayor’s vehicle allowance to a flat rate of $750 per month, lower than the $1,065 per month recommended by the committee but up from the current $300 per month plus mileage.

“The (previous) $300 allowance does not meet the need,” he said, adding he felt the $1,065 is a little high.