by Colin Smith
Morinville councillors will not be taking a cut in pay in response to the financial challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A motion by Councillor Stephen Dafoe that Town Council consider a 5% per cent rollback to members’ base honorariums for July 1 to December 31 was defeated 4-3 at its regular meeting Tuesday.
Councillor Lawrence Giffen and Deputy Mayor Scott Richardson voted in favour of the motion, along with Dafoe. Opposed were Councillors Rebecca Balanko, Nicole Boutestein and Sarah Hall, and Mayor Barry Turner.
In his opening statement, Councillor Stephen Dafoe said, “Council, I’m asking you to do a difficult thing. It’s one thing when you decide whether to spend something on this or something on that. I’m asking you to a take a 5% pay cut.”
“Council has to do its share and reduce.”
“When we look around the community we know there are still a lot of people who are not back to work.”
He noted that the total reduction in council honorariums would be $7,900, or about $30 per week for Councillors, $60 for the Mayor.
“Council has to do its share and reduce its own budget in order to fall in line with everything else that is being done.”
“I think we have reduced workloads right now. I think base work is a little less.”
In response to a question from Mayor Barry Turner, Corporate Services Director Shawna Jason told Council that the Town is seeing budgetary savings of about $275,000 during the COVID-19 period mainly because of reduced salary costs due to layoffs
“Our municipality is not in a situation where anybody needs to take any kind of a rollback,” said Councillor Nicole Boutestein, declaring her opposition to the motion. “I think we are going to be busier. Things are going to be busier than they’ve ever been due to everyone trying to catch up.”
Mayor Barry Turner also opposed the motion.
“We’re not faced with an immediate cash crisis,” he said. “If we were faced with the eventuality that Council’s budget and honorariums should be put on the table I absolutely think we should do that. But we’re not there yet”
Turner added, “The 5% reduction would amount to little more than optics, I think.”
Referring to the budget savings resulting from the COVID-19 measures, Deputy Mayor Scott Richardson said, “We did take our savings off the backs of the loss of jobs from our employees.
“We have to ask if a lot of employees were laid off and had to take some kind of a wage rollback, is it right for us to go without taking a rollback of some kind?”
“This isn’t optics it’s not about virtue signalling,” Dafoe said in his concluding statement. “This is about saying this Council realizes that this community is struggling, realizes that—despite being up a couple of hundred grand by virtue of salaries not being paid.”
“I think this is probably the right thing to do.”