By Stephen Dafoe
Legal – When it comes to remuneration for Legal’s next Town Council, the amount the mayor and councillors receive each month will remain the same as it has for the past nine years.
The matter was brought to council at a previous meeting but was moved forward to the Sept. 7 meeting when it was anticipated all councillors would be present to discuss the issue. With municipal elections in October, it was felt that the present council should vote in any potential raise for the new council – otherwise the remuneration would remain the same for the next three-year term.
“If we want to do anything, we need to do it before a new council comes in because we normally should change it for the new council,” said Legal Mayor Albert St. Jean said.
The mayor said the rates for meetings more than and less than four hours had been raised during the last term, but the monthly rate he and councillors receive had not been raised during the past three terms. As such, he advocated raising the monthly rate across the board to better reflect the rates of neighbouring communities.
Councillor Phil Hughes was the most vocal opponent of raising the money he and the mayor receive for their roles on council.
“I’m not here to make money,” Hughes said, adding that he believed everyone on council was of the same mind. “I would probably do it for free if it was a volunteer level. I’d be still sitting on council because I would do it for free. Remuneration is a very nice gift.”
“We’re a small town,” Hughes said. “We don’t have a huge tax base to support this.”
Although agreeing with Hughes that no one was on council for the money, himself included, Mayor St. Jean said he still felt an increase was warranted as the last one was put in place three council terms ago. St. Jean said that continuing to not raise the rate could result in taxpayers perceiving a major raise down the road if a future council decided to raise the rates to bring it in line with then current rates.
“What they [the public] don’t know is that you haven’t changed it in years,” St. Jean said. “If you change it slowly it makes more sense.”
Councillor Hughes said he hoped those who may be entertaining running for Legal Town Council would be doing so for the right reasons and the amount of remuneration should not matter.
Deputy Mayor Ken Baril recommended keeping the monthly rate for councillors at current levels but raising the monthly amount paid to the mayor, a suggestion Hughes also agreed with. Beril said the increase would be warranted, given the mayor is required to attend far more meetings and events than councillors, including Capital Region Board meetings in Edmonton.
Mayor St. Jean was not prepared to be the only one on council to take a raise and said he would vote against any such motion.
After further discussion, council agreed to maintain the status quo with respect to council remuneration. Legal currently pays its mayor $700 per month and councillors $500. The mayor and councillors receive an additional $100 for meetings less than four hours and $200 for meeting in excess of four hours.