Morinville Proposes Community-Led Oversight on Council Compensation

closed session

by Colin Smith

A plan to give the community more say on how Morinville’s mayor and town councillors are paid is moving ahead.

Creation of a committee to review remuneration received by the members of council was approved at its regular meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 27.

As recommended by administration, the proposed Council Remuneration Review Committee would consist of five Morinville electors, with the town’s manager of Human Resource Services serving as administrative facilitator.

Council Remuneration Policy CP194/2022 calls for an external market review of salaries, honorariums, and expenses by a third party at the midterm of each Council term.

Committee members would look at the results of the third-party remuneration review conducted by Hillcrest Financial, along with the current Council Remuneration Policy, and develop recommendations on compensation for council to consider.

The Hillside Financial review report was presented to council at the Feb. 27 meeting.

Based on a survey of council compensation at ten comparator municipalities, it indicates that Mornville’s mayor and councillors are paid substantially less than the town’s Council Remuneration Policy calls for.

The target of the remuneration policy is for the rate of the honorariums and expense compensation for council members to be set at the 50th percentile of what they are paid in comparable municipalities.

That would put council’s compensation at the midpoint, with half of council members in other municipalities receiving more and half receiving less.

“The Town of Morinville’s mayoral honorarium is currently 25.38% below the 50th percentile of the defined market. The councillor rate is currently 14.86% below the 50th percentile,” states the report.

The comparator municipalities surveyed in the study were Beaumont, Cochrane, Devon, Fort Saskatchewan, Hinton, Lacombe, Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Sturgeon County and Whitecourt.

The report noted that five of the comparator municipalities provide additional compensation for the deputy mayor.

All provide some level of benefits, which may include health and dental coverage or life insurance, and an emerging trend is to provide pension, RRSP or TFSA options, which is the case with four of the municipalities.

According to Human Resource Services Manager Jennifer Brush, the Council Review Committee is intended to “uphold accountability to the community, attract and retain qualified candidates, and foster public trust by aligning compensation with the demands and expectations of civic leadership.”

Determining council compensation through such a committee is considered to be best practice for municipalities, she said in her report recommending it.

It also provides for transparency and engagement with the community and provides an unbiased view of council remuneration.

Other options, including reviews and recommendations done by council itself or by administration are seen as undesirable.

Brush said that a bylaw will now be prepared to enable the creation of the committee, and then applications for the member positions will be sought, with the intention that recommendations on council compensation will be brought out in July.

Morinville residents were last consulted about council compensation eight years ago, and the last time a remuneration review was established was in 2019.

“I am really glad to see this come forward,” said Deputy Mayor Jen Anheliger. “I think this allows our citizens to participate.”

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