by Colin Smith
The honorariums of Morinville Councillors are being increased to account for the loss of a tax exemption.
At the August 27 regular meeting of Town Council, Councillors voted to adjust their earnings to maintain the previous after-tax levels.
The honorarium for Morinville’s Mayor will be $50,251, and Councillors will receive $24,929 annually.
Previously, the Mayor earned an annual honorarium of $43,697 and Councillors received $21,848, with one-third of the honorarium being exempt from tax. But the tax exemption was eliminated in January as a result changes federal budgetary changes.
The move followed discussions beginning in October and the Council Remuneration Review received by Council in July that indicated that most other municipalities had adjusted pay to account for the change.
The compensation top-up will be covered by $30,000 designated in the 2019 Operating Budget for the purpose if Council made this decision.
The Council Remuneration Review was prepared by Ed Grose of Red Deer-based hr outlook, and done in conjunction with the 2019 Morinville Administration compensation review.
The review showed that Morinville Councillors are paid significantly less than the average for elected officials in comparative Alberta municipalities. The average salary for mayors who are part-time, as in Morinville, is $60,426. For councillors, the average is $33,109.
At this meeting, Councillors discussed possible changes to the Council Remuneration Policy, which sets out how and how much they are paid.
Councillor Nicole Boutestein moved that Council remuneration rates be looked at as part of the 2020 Budget deliberations.
In response to a question from Councillor Stephen Dafoe, she clarified that this would be with a view to potentially raising the pay of current members, rather than determining that of the next Council as is usually the practice.
She pointed to the results of the review showing Morinville’s compensation is way below average.
The motion passed, with a dissenting vote cast by Mayor Barry Turner, who said he would prefer to see a discussion on substantial remuneration changes be expressly focused on a future Council.
Additional income in the form of per-diem rates for attending specific meetings or events is received by members of Morinville Council and others. Councillors Dafoe and Hall also opposed the motion.
Whether to move away from per-diems paid per activity to a salary-only approach was also discussed.
The consensus was unfavourable to such a policy change, as possibly resulting in those who don’t take the effort to attend many meetings and events receiving the same compensation as those who do.
“Being as we’re not-full time, some people put in more time than others, and it’s not fair,” said Councillor Scott Richardson.
Turner moved that the Administration come up with policy amendments to allow for per diems to cover out-of–town events related to Council duties. That motion passed, along with one by Dafoe calling for an expenditure cap to be applied.
Council also heard from the Administration that a two-per cent cost of living adjustment to their honorariums has been included in 2020 Budget planning.
Sturgeon County Council was also discussing remuneration at its August 27 regular meeting.
It heard from a Citizen Task Force struck in March to review elected officials’ remuneration and bring recommendations to Council.
The Task Force found that no comprehensive review of the Mayor and Councillors’ remuneration has been conducted since 2006, resulting in Sturgeon County’s rates falling well below the rates of similar-sized municipalities.
It recommended that Councillor base salaries be adjusted to the 67th percentile among the comparative municipalities, with the increase to take effect on January 1, 2020.