by Tristan Turner
Morinville News Correspondent
Council has approved a new remuneration policy that will see the honorariums of the next Council bump up 38 per cent for councillors and 34 per cent for the Mayor. Base honorariums will increase from $15,204.13 to $21,000 for Council and $31,272.49 to $42,000 for the Mayor. Simultaneously, per diem rates and new requirements on attendance mean their total pay may see a smaller percentage increase.
The policy changes follow the Council Compensation Review Committee’s final report. Two members of the committee were on hand at the meeting during Council’s deliberations. The committee has reported to Council in the past regarding their policy and their intent behind it, saying the review’s ultimate goal was to increase the base pay councillors get and decrease pay for attending certain meetings, boards, and events. The committee said the alterations were primarily to make pay more transparent and easier to understand in absolute terms, but the committee also felt that a raise should be implemented because Morinville is growing and Council responsibilities are increasing. While this intent was maintained in the final approved policy, quite a few amendments were made before passing.
Council votes for higher pay option
Council was presented with two options in the policy to determine the base pay of the next Council as changes will take effect after the next election. Council ultimately voted 5-2 for the higher pay second option after some debate.
The base rate for the next Council will be $21,000. That is $1595 more than option one, and $5,795.87 more than Council’s current base pay.
The next mayor will earn $42,000, $4,473 more than option one and $10,727.51 more than the current mayoral salary. Per diem rates were the same for both options and should amount to less for the future Council given more duties are included in the new base honorariums.
Councillor Barry Turner advocated for an amendment that would have seen the lower option selected.
“I think that with this job there should be a certain component of service,” Turner said. “This [second] option is still an increase, but it is far more modest.”
Councillor Rob Ladouceur, on the other hand, felt that increasing councillor pay would lead to “the best people applying” and that increased pay would attract more people applying for the position, giving residents more choice on voting day.
Turner disagreed, saying, “if people are attracted to this job because of the pay, then the pay is probably too high… and they are probably not people we want on council.” Turner reiterated his opinion that the job of a councillor should focus on service. He also mentioned in his argument that in tough economic times, a smaller raise is more financially prudent.
The final vote on Turner’s amendment to select the lower raise amount was 2-5, with only Councillors Turner and Dafoe in favour of the lower option.
Docking pay for missed meetings
Beyond the base amount of salary, there was some debate about penalties for councillor absences, something that does not presently occur.
In the policy, as presented, Council could vote to rescind a portion of a councillor’s honorarium if they missed a meeting.
Councillor Stephen Dafoe brought forward an amendment to change the policy where pay is automatically deducted for missed meetings. It can be returned by a vote if Council feels they have a justified excuse.
“I feel that if you don’t show up to work, you shouldn’t get paid. It’s that simple,” Dafoe said.
There were some caveats added to Dafoe’s motion after some debate, including making sure a councillor can not have more deducted than what their base pay is to avoid a councillor owing the Town money.
Dafoe’s amendment applies to regular council meetings, Committee of the Whole, strategic planning, or budget meetings.
There was another amendment by Councillor Turner, unanimously passed, that made it so councillor’s would only be docked pay for non-regular meetings missed with at least 30 days notice.
There was an additional change that removed per diems for ceremonial duties and events outside of Town that are not part of regular Council duties.
The final motion passed 6-1 with Deputy Mayor Brennan Fitzgerald opposed due to his disagreement with changes eliminating specific pay for events outside the community in many cases.