Budget Committee Approves A Pay Raise (Sort Of) For Themselves
Moose Jaw City Council will be getting a raise but they won’t be taking any extra money home if a decision of Budget Committee receives final approval.
Budget Committee decided to accept the recommendation from Administration to receive the pay increase to offset the loss of income tax free status from changes to the Income Tax Act. Effective January 1st an income tax exemption which made one-third of municipal representatives tax free was eliminated and Council’s entire salary is now taxable.
Calling it a “difficult and awkward conversation” Mayor Frasier Tolmie listed out what the Mayor and Council earn in Moose Jaw on relation to other councils in the province.
Mayor Tolmie stated in Moose Jaw the Mayor would earn $79,000 and a councilor $24,918 whereas in Yorkton their part-time mayor earns $81,000 and in Swift Current their part-time mayor earns $78,000.
In Prince Albert the mayor earns $88,000 and there is eight councilors all earning $32,000.
The highest paid mayor he mentioned was Lloydminster earning in excess of $100,000.
The Mayor did this as part of a call for an overall pay review.
Councillor Dawn Luhning agreed it was a difficult and awkward conversation and stated she could not support voting herself a pay raise.
“I will never sit here and vote to give myself a raise in a term I sit in,” Councillor Luhning said, adding ‘I always felt for me it is inappropriate.”
“I would have never expected we would get a report we should get a raise because they (Canadian government) are going to take away the third we are not going to be taxed on.”
Mayor Tolmie replied “MLAs and MPs vote on their salaries” saying he understood having an outside assessment done on Council’s compensation.
Councillor Scott McMann agreed it was a difficult discussion but the end result was simply keeping Council with the same take home money.
“But I do think from a fairness standpoint it’s something we should look at,” Councillor McMann said.
He proposed that the funds for the wage increase could be found from unspent money in conventions and travel.
Councillor Chris Warren echoed the Mayor's comments to some extent.
“It’s an extremely awkward situation I guess doing nothing is effectively a pay cut and decreasing the amount we are taking home,” Councillor Warren said.
“Putting your name forward for public life is often difficult…for our Mayor, for a full time mayor it is substantial.”
Councillor Dawn Luhning disagreed with cutting travel expenses.
“I do believe travel is something councilors should have access to,” Councillor Luhning said, “if you want to go to SUMA (Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association convention) you should take it out of travel “
It needs to be noted Councillor Luhning sits on a SUMA board so her travel is funded by SUMA and not the City of Moose Jaw.
“If we want to increase the pay we take it out in the next term.”
Councillor Crystal Froese said “the irony is not lost on me” because her dad long ago had addressed Council when Council was set to vote themselves a 40 percent increase. She continued it was “not necessarily” an awkward discussion.
“I don’t think any citizen would expect us to start out with less than when we started…it is one of the first times we have a mayor who has a young family.”
“I think it is time to have a conversation about this. I actually think we should decide it now,” Councillor Froese said.
Councillor McMann then clarified his position stating he was not in favour of eliminating travel for Council but last year the budget was $27,000 and only $7,000 was spent there. The excess travel funds could be used to fund the raises with no increase in taxes.
Mayor Tolmie spoke about his car allowance compared to others in administration.
“The car allowance is $100 per month and in other areas it is $500 per month ,” he said.
It needs to be noted both present City Manager Jim Puffalt and the previous City Manager, Matt Noble, received a $500 monthly car allowance.
Puffalt agreed with the pooling concept.
“There seems to be a fair amount of travel dollars and you can cover the travel dollars by pooling it,” he said.
He suggested setting the travel and convention budget at $18,000 and the remainder – unspent - $21,000 be used to fund the increased remuneration.
The $18,700 in overall travel and convention budget available would be determined by Council how it would be spent.
There were three individual motions voted on.
In a vote of 5-2 with Councillors Luhning and Brian Swanson opposed with Mayor Tolmie and Councillors Heather Eby, Froese, Warren and McMann in favour Budget Committee agreed to the raise.
In a second vote to fund Council’s pay increases through reducing the travel and convention budget and then use excess funds to pay for the salary increase the vote was 5-2. Councillors Luhning and Swanson opposed with Mayor Tolmie and Councillors Eby, Froese, Warren and McMann in favour.
To prepare a report to look at increasing Council’s remuneration in the next term the vote was 6-1. Councillor Swanson was opposed with Mayor Tolmie and Councillors Heather Eby, Froese, Warren, Luhning and McMann in favour. If approved that raise could come into effect January 2021. The last pay raise to Council was in 2014.
Once the vote is approved by Council and Bylaw 5480 is changed the Mayor will receive $79,108 and Councillors $24,918 retroactively.
Previously the mayor received $67,147 and councilors $22,382.
In order to come into effect the pay increase also requires a change to Bylaw 5480 The Remuneration Bylaw 5480.
Under that Bylaw salaries for Council are tied to the remuneration a cabinet minister in the provincial government receives.
The mayor receives 47 percent of what a cabinet minister does and councilors receive one-third of what the mayor receives. The rate was established in 2014 with assistance from an outside source.