By Trevor Busch
A continued lack of public interest in serving on a three-person member-at-large council remuneration committee has prompted town council to consider other options in determining new rates of pay for elected officials.
At their Oct. 24, 2016 regular meeting, town council had voted 6-1 to establish a three person member-at-large committee to review council remuneration. Coun. Rick Popadynetz had opposed the motion.
In late 2016, administration reported it had been advertising for the remuneration committee for the required minimum three-week period (as per Council Remuneration Procedure C-2, Sec. 3) which had expired on Nov. 17, but no applications had been received.
This prompted town council to extend the deadline for applicants to Dec. 31, 2016, but remained unsuccessful in securing any interested applicants from the community as of that extended deadline.
“As you see in the council procedures, that if there is no one then administration can come and tell you,” said finance director Devon Wannop, speaking at council’s Jan. 23 regular meeting. “There’s a list of cities, like the City of Brooks, City of Lethbridge, City of Medicine Hat — we can do comparisons, and then we can show you the different alternatives that they have for them, and then we can make a recommendation based on administration, because there has been no community members that have responded.”
Under the town’s Council Remuneration Policy C-2, the mayor and councillors receive a monthly salary with a travel and subsistence allowance for required attendance at council and committee meetings and various community events.
As per policy, council usually sets the remuneration for the mayor and councillors in the fourth year of a council term, by resolution of town council.
“We’d also like to make it clear that this is not for this council, this is for the next council that will be elected,” said Mayor Henk DeVlieger.
Wannop pointed out the policy allows for changes at any time, but DeVlieger’s suggestion was not unfounded.
“Under this procedure, you may effect it whenever you want, but usually that’s the practice.”
Effective Jan. 1, 2014, current remuneration rates and allowances for elected officials are as follows: MAYOR: Monthly Base Salary ($1,666.67); Monthly Travel and Expense Allowance ($833.33); Total Monthly Remuneration ($2,500); Total Yearly Remuneration ($30,000).
DEPUTY MAYOR: Monthly Base Salary ($1,083.33); Monthly Travel and Expense Allowance ($541.67); Total Monthly Remuneration ($1,625), Total Yearly Remuneration ($19,500).
COUNCILLORS: Monthly Base Salary ($1,000); Monthly Travel and Expense Allowance ($500), Total Monthly Remuneration ($1,500); Total Yearly Remuneration ($18,000).
Coun. Joe Strojwas expressed his hope that for comparative purposes administration would only analyze communities of a similar size and population level.
“You mentioned the City of Lethbridge and places like that. You’re not going to use that in the equations to decide our pay? I’m sure it’s going to be places like Coaldale, and Strathmore, smaller places.”
It remains unclear if administration will also be tasked with the consideration of adding health benefits for elected municipal officials.
The idea had been previously endorsed by Councillors Jack Brewin and Laura Ross-Giroux. During 2017 operating budget deliberations at council’s Oct. 12 special budget meeting, Ross-Giroux initially raised the issue of benefits for councillors.
At that same meeting, Wannop had indicated adding benefits for councillors would require an increase of approximately 20 per cent to council’s current remuneration, representing an annual increase of approximately $30,000.
In early December 2016, Wannop had suggested a lack of interest from the public in serving on a council remuneration committee equated to overall satisfaction with that elected body’s record of policy direction and decision-making.
“Obviously, if there’s no people applying then they’re happy with your guys’ direction,” said Wannop. “At least, that’s one way you could put it. So we could give you guys all of the information, and you guys can make a recommendation at that point instead of going to a committee.”
DeVlieger suggested administration gathering requisite information from neighbouring municipalities should be effective in influencing a decision on new rates of pay for town councillors.
“That, to me, would be a fair system. You can get all of the information right off the Internet, with the financial statements from all the different municipalities. It’s very transparent.”
At their Jan. 23 regular meeting, town council voted unanimously to direct administration to bring back to a future council meeting information pertaining to Remuneration Policy C-2 for review by council.
According to administration in the request for decision, town council could also have chosen to not review the policy at this time, and schedule the next review for the spring of 2021.