The Council Remuneration Policy was approved with several changes from the previous policy during the regular council meeting on Oct. 5. This policy provides fair and reasonable remuneration for Hinton’s elected officials for their time and expenses.
In this new policy, the Mayor’s honorarium remains at $5,000 per month, despite the recommendation from the Council Remuneration Review Committee (CRRC) to lower it.
“I had the opportunity to speak to the public about this and in regards to the honorarium for the mayor I had discussions. A lot of people were shocked by the [recommended] decrease that was asked about at this time and felt similar to council that they really truly want a Mayor that is accessible and this amount makes that more likely. [A decrease] would take away from their position as a Mayor,” said Coun. Trevor Haas.
During the standing committee meeting on Sept. 21, council pointed out that a low mayor honorarium could be a limiting factor in a mayor’s ability to be available as they could require a second job and prevent potential candidates from running in an election.
Meeting fees in the new policy are adjusted to $75 for meetings of zero to two hours, $125 for meetings of two to four hours, and $250 for meetings over four hours.
Haas unsuccessfully put forward a motion to include a fee category for meetings from zero to one hour for $37.50. He noted that some committee meetings, which councilors are appointed to, don’t take very long and it doesn’t seem fiscally responsible to charge $75 for extremely short meetings.
“There’s quite a few committees that we’re on and I believe that the committees I’m on, personally, don’t necessarily run more than an hour,” Haas said.
Coun. Dewly Nelson spoke against adding another category for meeting fees under one hour. He said most special meetings that are extremely short have taken place due to cancelled regular meetings.
Mayor Marcel Michaels noted that he would like to see a category for meetings under half an hour, but that prep time for meetings also needs to be considered.
“Prep time, travel time, those are all things that are inclusive to participating in a meeting especially if they’re in person. There’s substantially more time than just the time spent at the meeting,” said Albert Ostashek. He noted that the CRRC covered this in their presentation and said that the remuneration should also cover the time spent preparing for the meeting.
The new policy also includes that the mayor may attend the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) Annual Conference, the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) conference, the Municipal Leaders’ Caucus, and Economic Developers Alberta (EDA) conference annually, while councilors may attend AUMA annually and FCM once per term.
The responsibility to review and process time sheets of council remains with administration. The next review of the policy will happen in the third year of council’s term to allow additional times to set dates and prepare reports.
Masha Scheele, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hinton Voice