By Cole Parkinson
Municipal District of Taber council has made a few moderations to their fees and expenses.
At their organizational meeting on October 9, council discussed making changes to their council per diem policy and their fees and expenses.
One of the talking points revolved around the reeve honorarium and if it should go up because of the higher expectations placed on the position.
“Last year it came up that we change the reeve’s honorarium and at the time I didn’t know enough to question it but I wonder if the reeve needs to have more money. There are more meetings, more expectations, more phone calls,” said Deputy Reeve Tamara Miyanaga.
Last year in the M.D. of Taber’s audit for the year ending on December 31, 2017, the reeve had a base salary of $56,454 with $6,979 for benefits and allowances for a total of $63,433.
In the 2016 audit, the reeve total salary was $49,086.
The previous council had decided to raise the Reeve salary but former Reeve Brian Brewin says in the past he has never supported the motion.
“I voted against it every time,” he said.
Another question raised was around what exactly should be submitted for council expenses and fees.
With councillors attending events throughout the year, there was some confusion as to what exactly should be submitted.
“If I go to Canada Day and I’m asked to speak, do I submit it or do I say ‘I’m a good person so I’ll speak.’ I have a hard time understanding that. As a reeve, he (Merrill Harris) is going to come in and get council agendas ready and the reeve gets called upon to speak, so does the reeve count that in his overall fee? It’s very unclear for me and I find it hard to manage,” said Miyanaga. “I have no doubt I can justify everything that’s on there but I also have ones with no charge.”
While Miyanaga was hoping for concrete answers to her concerns, long-serving members on council pointed to the fact there were no real hard set terms for what councillors should submit.
“I had the same issues when I came. What do you feel comfortable putting down on that piece of paper? I think about five years ago your (the reeve’s) monthly was $600 or so and the council of the day wanted you to have more. Being the new guy, I wasn’t going to oppose. Last year you thought it was too much and you brought it back down again,” said Reeve Merrill Harris. “It really is accountability back to the ratepayer. At the end of the day, if you can defend it to your ratepayer that is who elected you. You’ll find somedays you have three meetings and you only put down one. Lots of times when coming in to do agendas, I didn’t put it down because I was running in for parts or something. There’s also days you have to shut the combines down to do a spiel or something, so it certainly does affect you at home,” added Coun. Brewin. “There’s almost not a day that goes by that you don’t get a phone call, it’s just part of the job. But I don’t think it is any more different from any other councillor in terms of time spent.”
Brewin also added he would do reeve tasks such as organizing agendas when he knew he was already coming into Taber.
With that in mind, Coun. Jennifer Crowson pointed out not everyone would be able to have that benefit especially if the reeve was in a division further away from the Administration Building.
“When you come in for council agendas and that sort of thing, I don’t think that is a very fair reflective to anybody who comes behind you. I think that’s great if you were coming in anyway but it’s also taking up half of your day and not reflective of the time spent. Some councillors are on different rates because they are on more committees and I feel if you aren’t claiming those things, it’s not reflective of the actual work that is being done,” she said.
Brewin though pointed to the fact he saw the job as a way of giving back to the community, too.
“I’m going to disagree with you, not really doing it for the money either. Lots of people have done it for nothing before this so you do it for the community, I guess. It does cost you something when you’re gone all day but I also believe some of it is giving back to your community,” he explained.
Council asked administration if the compensation they were receiving was in line with other municipalities of the same size.
“We fall within the medium for comparably sized municipalities. In terms of the per diem, every municipality is different depending on types of committees and frequency they meet. You aren’t going to find any two that are similar. In terms of comparable communities within our municipality, the village and two towns, I believe you have more committees than other councils,” said CAO Derrick Krizsan. “From what I’ve observed, council compensation falls within a very fair range given the number of committees and workload.”
Others on council also felt the compensation should fall within being accountable to the ratepayers in the M.D. of Taber.
“You also have to look yourself in the mirror too,” said Coun. Leavitt Howg.
Council and Reeve per diems for 2018 were originally set at $27.46 per diem, $450 monthly allowance for cellphones and Internet and $160 for the monthly retirement contribution.
Travel and expenses were $200 for the fall convention, $200 for the spring convention, mileage with CRA rate which is currently at $0.55 and all other expenses are reimbursed upon submission of a receipt.
Council discussed and was in favour of increasing their monthly allowance by $200.
A motion was made to increase their monthly allowance from $450 to $650 and was approved unanimously.