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Compensation recommendations deferred by council

by Mike Robinson

ELORA - Centre Wellington councillors are looking for more information before approving salary increases for their positions.

After roughly an hour of discussion on May 28, council deferred recommendations to increase salaries effective Dec. 1.

The proposed new salaries would be $38,009 for mayor and $20,892 for councillors (the increase to mayor’s base salary would be implemented over a two year period - $4,466 annually).

The new rates represent a 31% pay increase over the mayor’s current base pay of $29,077 and an 8% increase over councillor’s current base pay of $19,384.

Councillors and the mayor are also paid per diems of $105 per full day and $80/half day for attendance at conferences and workshops and $75 per extra meeting.

Laptop computers are provided to all elected officials and a cell phone provided to the mayor.

The recommendation also suggests base pay for elected officials be adjusted by the percentage applied to the staff rates of pay for Jan. 1, 2019.

The report presented to council notes that part of the reasoning for the new recommended salary increase is to offset the one-third tax exemption allowance currently provided to elected officials.

That allowance disappears as of 2019 as a result of changes to the federal budget last year.

Aware of the coming changes, council directed staff during 2018 budget deliberations to review and assess remuneration paid to the mayor and councillors, as well as the anticipated time commitment for the 2019-22 council term.

The recommendations came about through a community advisory committee and township compensation consultant Marianne Love, whose proposal is based on an analysis of the external market.

Love’s report noted, council compensation has not been reviewed in many years and the nature of the work of the mayor and members of council “has evolved considerably.”

The report states “a competitive base salary is a critical component in the attraction and retention of a diverse, representative and committed pool of candidates from Centre Wellington who wish to seek election to council.”

The review included an analysis of salaries paid to mayors and councillors in  municipalities in the region that offer similar services and have a similar population (most about 30,000 and at least three to five with greater than 40,000).

Some of the municipalities reviewed include: Aurora, Bradford West Gwillimbury, Caledon, Clearview, Erin, Halton Hills, Innisfil, Lakeshore, New Tecumseth, Orangeville, Orillia, Puslinch, Wasaga Beach, Wellington North and Woolwich.

The report presented to council states, “Generally, the 2018 base pay remuneration for elected officials at Centre Wellington is low to the defined pay market having regard to the comparator group identified.”

The impact on the 2019 budget is estimated at $30,241, which includes $19,817 for salaries and $10,424 for the health care spending account for elected officials.

Councillor Kirk McElwain said the one third tax exemption was originally designed to cover council expenses incurred - such as car expenses or a home office.

He said the equivalent compensation for the loss of the exemption amounts to just $387 and, “That is not even close (to covering time and expenses).”

McElwain added councillors are still not paid for a number of items required for the position.

Love noted that over time, additional council compensations had been introduced. She also clarified the compensation is not one third of the entire salary, but one third of the taxes incurred - about $1,200.

McElwain said his interpretation is this amounts to an extra $1,000 per year for council - most of which will disappear through income tax.

“To me this means money out of pocket, not money into pocket,” McElwain said.

Councillor Stephen Kitras echoed McElwain’s comments.

“We all understand this is a part-time job and we all put aside work for this,” said Kitras, who suggested even at a minimum wage job, councillors would be earning $15/hour.

Kitras said the overall impact would push a councillor up one tax bracket, thus incurring higher tax rates.

He expressed further concern that the current compensation restricts potential candidates “because it is only a part-time job and it pays so little.”

Kitras said “it cuts off a whole segment of the population to be able to even apply.”

He questioned how this change would attract individuals who are not retired or self-employed.

Love noted part-time council positions are predominant across the province,  except for larger municipalities and some pockets of the GTA.

Councillor Dean Workman said the compensation provided to attend full-day conferences or workshops “doesn’t even equal a part-time job at FreshCo.”

(Workman later clarified his daughter works at FreshCo and said it is a great place to work.)

Love agreed the amount seems low, but added “people stand in elected office for much more than compensation.” At the same time, she agreed compensation needs to be fair and competitive.

She agreed the $105 for the day meetings is not true compensation, but an acknowledgement of the work.

Councillor Fred Morris wondered about the municipalities to which Centre Wellington was compared, asking, “Did this involve the degree of involvement (and time commitments) of representatives, such as those with standing committees rather than committee of the whole?”

Kitras expressed concern about a local mayor being chosen as warden of an upper tier municipality, which he said is not just a division of time, but of loyalties.

“The mayor gets elected by the people, to represent the whole community. If he was to get the warden’s job, it is for the whole county,” Kitras said. “As a resident, I elected a mayor to represent the municipality and its interests at the county.”

He considered it a conflict in terms of employment.

Councillor Steven VanLeeuwen said the issue of council compensation is tricky, noting, “It is community service and it is tough ... but it is for the community.”

McElwain said since there are a few more items to be looked into, he recommended the issue be deferred until staff reports back.

Kitras also asked if council could discuss aspects of the proposal line by line.

Council agreed to the deferral.

June 8, 2018


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