Eganville – Bonnechere Valley Councillor Brent Patrick would like to see council roll back its salary to 2019 levels for 2022 leading up to the election.
“If we reverted just to our salary and wage back to 2019, the first year we were in,” he said at the last committee meeting of 2021.
His proposal created a good deal of discussion and in the end, council opted to keep the salary increase, but later donate that increase into a fund to be spent on other items in the community. In the end it was not exactly Coun. Patrick’s proposal of helping to create a lean budget, but it did fulfill his goal of having a bit of money which could be used in the community in various places.
When he presented the proposal, he said having the salary increase cut back to 2019 would amount to several thousand dollars in the budget which could be spent elsewhere. There had been a big change in 2019 in how council was paid, so going back to this rate for 2019 would be a good move, he felt.
“We always talked about a lean budget,” he said.
The next council could then decide their remuneration rate moving forward, he said.
Mayor Jennifer Murphy said she did not want to leave the next council in a lurch if this council decided to rollback their salary. She pointed out in a list of the 17 municipalities in Renfrew County, BV has among the lowest costs for council.
“I jockey in position number 13 and 14 out of 17,” she said. “And you guys jockey for position, 9, 10 or 11. Eleven is where council sits.” She said she would not like to see a 15 percent increase at some time for council to catch up if there was a decrease in the remuneration.
Councillor Merv Buckwald said five or six years ago, BV was at the lowest level of all councils in the county. Mayor Murphy said her first year she was mayor she was at position 15 out of the 17 municipalities.
“There is still a dramatic increase from 2018 to 2019,” Coun. Patrick said, adding it has increased since then.
“It’s two percent per year, which is the COLA basically,” the mayor said.
Coun. Patrick said council members are not in it for the pay.
“With my pay I give a lot of it back. I donate to the library and to other things in the community,” Mayor Murphy said.
Councillor Tim Schison asked if there was a specific place Coun. Patrick envisioned putting the money. Coun. Patrick noted the fire department had to cut back, for example. He said there are also many businesses in the community which are hurting or have shut down, so having a lean budget would be a good move for council.
“It just gives us a couple of grand to utilize in next year’s budget,” he said.
“Where does that put the new council?” Councillor Jack Roesner asked, noting this is about a six percent reduction from where council is in 2021.
There was a committee from the community which recommended the existing salary structure, he said. That committee made a recommendation to the previous council which approved it, bringing in a significant remuneration hike for BV council. That remuneration increase took effect for the council which was elected in 2019.
“This report is basically disregarding that (the report from 2019),” he said.
Councilor Tim Schison said he did not object to cutting back the salary increase to the 2019 levels but would like to see that money be put into something for the community, maybe a summer event. “We have lost so much and I am quite fine with putting that portion into something, as long as it carries on and we are not hindering the next council,” he said.
Mayor Murphy said she did not want to hinder the next council either by reducing the pay of council and pushing the by-law forward.
“People who want to run want to know they will be compensated fairly,” she said.
The council will be one of the lowest paid in Renfrew County if they take the remuneration back to 2019 levels, she said.
CAO Annette Gilchrist said the money could be left in the pay for councillors and then they could donate the increase towards whatever they chose. That way the actual salary would not be reduced and council could choose where to donate to the community or for a cause.
Coun. Roesner said that could work and not impact a new council coming in.
“I don’t want to take this report (the salary report from 2019) and disregard it,” he said, noting a lot of time went into it.
Mayor Murphy said she did not want to go back on the work done by the committee in looking at a salary plan for council. The committee at the time was made up of Gerald Tracey and Gus Cammaert.
Council agreed to donate their remuneration increase from 2019 toward a fund for something in the community. This was being done without changing the by-law, however.
“Will you get a tax receipt?” questioned Coun. Buckwald.
“It’s all taxed. No matter what you look at, it’s all taxed,” Coun. Schison said.
The money would be about $2,500. The money would be put in a donation section and council will determine what it will be used for in the future.
“As long as we can agree what to spend it on,” Coun. Schison said. “That is going to be an interesting place.”
Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader