Salary Increases for City Council
Salary increases for council is always makes for interesting discussion. It’s not often that one gets to vote for their own salary increase, but as a member of council, you do just that. Because you approve the budget, you approve your own salary. But, there are measures that can be taken to make the process more transparent and fair. Let’s look at why I have a concern with the way the recent salary increases from council took place.
Watch the video I put together on the salary increases for City Council on my Facebook page.
In 2013, a task force was put together and recommended that council members receive a 5% increase in salary every year for the next four years (2013-2017). This was based on median salaries of comparable cities and towns. Salaries were low but would catch up in time and this seemed to be a fair way to get there. It was approved through council.
New Task Force in 2015
Fast forward to 2015, just two years later. Times have changed. Oil prices have plummeted, employment is rising and there is concern from residents of Spruce Grove where their next paycheque is coming from, if and whether they’ll lose their job and household debt is on the rise.
A new task force is put together and new recommendations are put forward for council, recommendations that do not reflect the current economy nor the way this looks when we’re in the midst of a recession. That 5% salary increase each year? Thrown out and new increases were recommended.
And the Salary Increase Is…
So what did they recommend?
For the Mayor:
- 8.1% salary increase as of September 1, 2015
- and a further 7.1% increase on January 1, 2016 (four months later)
In salary terms, his salary went from $64,752 to $75,000 in just four months time!
For the Aldermen:
- 16.4% salary increasea as of September 1, 2015
- and a further 5% increase on January 1, 2016 (four months later)
In salary terms, their salaries went from $30,543 to $37,527 in just four months time!
Since then, there has been an additional 5% increase (January 1, 2017). So in just two years, the Mayor has seen his salary increase 21.6% and the aldermen have seen their salaries increase 28.3%!
This is insanity.
This is insane that this type of salary increased happened in such a short period of time. This is insane that this barely saw a blip from the public (and begs the question how many of us were really aware this even happened).
I understand that it is important to pay your council appropriately but the first recommendation from 2013 would have accomplished this. How is it appropriate to give yourself a raise that quickly and that much when a recession is hitting the province.
It’s not okay.
In addition to the salary increase, council changed how council members claim honoraria. It used to be that an honorarium was not given if business was done within the city, now they do.
This begs the question- what exactly do our council members do for their base salary and do we have any idea how much our council members are really making? With all the honoraria and expenses in addition to salary, how much are each of them making and how?
If you go to the Spruce Grove city website and look up the 2016 financial, you can look up the salaries that each made.
Without benefits, the Mayor made $93,593 and the aldermen ranged from $40,299 to $48,991.
Remember, the aldermen and mayor positions are part-time (the mayor position will be full time as of this new term).
More Transparency Needed
Do you feel it’s appropriate for aldermen to make nearly $50,000 for a part-time job? Maybe they do! But the problem is we don’t really know what each of them does for their salary and for the extras they make. Their council expenses aren’t posted online. This is why we need to see more transparency from council.
Every month expenses should be posted on the city council website. There should be a breakdown on salary, expenses claimed, honoraria and what business each council member has undertaken.
There is no doubt we need to see more transparency from our council and this is a great place to start.
We need more transparency with our task forces. We have to be confident as residents that there is no interference from city council with task forces. There is controversy with some and look up the recent mayoralty task force review to see what is meant by council interference. This is not okay.
We need to be more open and transparent when it comes to process, to have public input with task forces, salaries and more.
Again, I am totally in favour of compensating our members of council appropriately but it has to be fair and transparent. We have to be careful we’re not in a vicious circle of upping salaries based on other councils’ salaries who are doing the same thing with us. We’re raising salaries on our own raises basically.
If this is happening, we have to freeze or reduce council salaries. They have to be fair. We can’t be overpaid for the work we’re doing. Let’s be open and honest about it.