Council Compensation Review Committee says they want Council pay to increase
by Tristan Turner
Morinville News Correspondent
The next group of councillors to hold office could be looking at significant changes to their remuneration. Council received a report from the Council Compensation Review Committee during the May 17 Committee of the Whole meeting.
Sheldon Fingler, one of the committee members, made the presentation on the proposed changes for Council pay, and the report met with some caution by council members.
In the presentation, Fingler made it clear that the consensus of the committee was that they felt that Council pay should be simplified and slightly increased. Instead of relying on per diems and “pay for service,” the new model attempts to simplify Council pay by removing or reducing Council pay for per diems and events while increasing their flat honorarium.
Under the proposed changes, the mayor’s base honorarium would rise from 31,272.49 per year to 37,527.00, an increase of 20 per cent. Councillors’ base honorarium would rise from 15,204.13 to 19,405.00 per year, an increase of 27.6 per cent.
Because of that increase, councillors would no longer be paid a per diem for additional meetings, including strategic planning, budget, and other special meetings which are currently paid at a $100 for a half day meeting, and $200 for an all-day meeting.
The Committee felt that any changes to Council’s pay proposed by the committee should come forward following the 2017 Council election, so there is a different set (potentially) of councillors by the time changes come forward, possibly reducing any pecuniary interest.
Council thanked the committee for their extensive work on the review, but there were some mixed comments from Council on the committee’s proposals.
Mayor Lisa Holmes felt that the changes to the policy may inadvertently reduce the pay of some members of Council and the mayor and that their estimates for how much of a salary increase is required to offset a reduction in per diem payments may be off. Fingler said it was not the intent of the board, and would like to see how the changes would affect councillor pay. Holmes said it would be fine if the changes ended up reducing pay, but that the outcome of the plan may not result in a pay increase as intended.
Further, Holmes was concerned the new plan could disincentivize councillors to show up to events by reducing pay for attending them.
“If everyone is getting paid the same, and you’re not getting paid to go [to some events], why would you go?”
Councillor Stephen Dafoe felt that part of the position should be a sense of community spirit and volunteerism, more so than it being a typical paid-per-hour job, something Fingler commented he was hoping was captured in the group’s plan.
Councillor Rob Ladouceur felt that the changes would indeed reduce his pay as a shift worker who cannot make it to events as often, but commented that he was in favour of the changes.
The remuneration plan presented includes a provision where Council has the power to decide whether or not a councillor has an excused absence for certain key meetings. If the changes pass as written, it will allow councillors to declare the absences of other councillors as excused or unexcused.
These changes were concerning to Councillor Brennan Fitzgerald, who felt he was responsible to voters, not the rest of Council.
“I’m not sure that I feel necessarily as a councillor that I report to the rest of Council… I report, from my perspective to the electorate. Do I need to request that my absences be excused by Council, or do I say I want to put in the time and the effort and make it to all of the meetings, [and have the public decide].”
Mayor Holmes commented that these changes may require some legal opinion as it is currently legally challenging under the Municipal Government Act to sanction other members of Council. Holmes also felt this change may make decisions about excusing absences between councillors “too personal.”
Councillor Barry Turner felt that the new policy may help residents get more value for their money when it comes to councillor activity, focusing on active councillor participation as a metric for pay.
Ultimately, Council felt that the plan may need more review before coming forward to their next regular meeting. Instead, they felt it would be better for the plan to come forward after council’s summer recess. As the proposals will not come into effect until after the next election, Council has time to consider alternatives and options to the proposed plan.
Residents can read the committee’s report online on the Town’s website in the latest Committee of the Whole agenda package.
Councillor and mayoral pay for 2015 are a matter of public record and vary depending on Council-appointed boards and committees and attendance at additional meetings. Here was the annual pay, including all benefits, for each member of Council for 2015:
Mayor Lisa Holmes: $41,685
Coun. Nicole Boutestein: $28,063
Coun. Stephen Dafoe: $32,566
Coun. Brennan Fitzgerald: $23,661
Coun. Rob Ladouceur: $25,499
Coun. Gordon Putnam: $26,505
Coun. Barry Turner: $27,386
CURRENT AND PROPOSED BASE HONORARIUMS