Kirkland Lake council could be getting a pay raise in 2024.
During the town’s regular council meeting on Tuesday (Dec. 5), treasurer Lloyd Crocker presented a report to council recommending a one per cent increase, which is consistent with what previous councils have done. Council was supportive of the change and a bylaw will be brought back at the Dec. 19 meeting for approval.
The increase would see the mayor receive $37,855.10 annually, while councillors will receive $13,691.96 annually. They are paid bi-weekly. The total annual remuneration for council will be $119,708.16 before any other benefits or payments.
The increase will take effect Jan. 1, 2024, and will be also be presented within the town’s 2024 operating budget.
“You're setting the amount now but it's still subject to the budget process. So, it's not superseding the budget process. We're just trying to cross our t's and dot our i's with the Municipal Act and the rules which requires a fulsome disclosure to the public about your remuneration because you guys are making a decision about it yourselves," Crocker said.
“So, that's kind of why the process falls the way it does. There is some other options, but we're kind of following the pattern that councils were comfortable with in the past.”
Alternative options include an annual increase of 2.5 per cent — the same increase as CUPE 26 — and remuneration aligned with the Consumer Price Index (CPI), according to Crocker’s report.
Coun. Casey Owens said a concern he had relating to pay was that council members are only reimbursed $75 per day, for up to six days a year if they are missing employment due to a council function.
“Some of us work, and I can't speak for other members of council, but I do not get days off. I have sick days and there's no way my school board will let me take a sick day to come and sit down here. And it has happened a lot in this term, not previous to this term, but in this term, where we've been asked for mandatory training during the day and I'm not taking a hit on my pay on my pension, because for some reason if you take an unpaid day off it as an effect on your pension down the road; $75 doesn't cut it,” Owens said.
“How do we readjust this to the reality? I don't know when this was passed in this form but I think it needs to be upgraded and reflect the nature of what we do and what we're asked to do more and more often.”
Crocker said it’s possible to increase the $75 but recommended they do it closer to the budget process as it will impact it.
With today’s cost of living, Coun. Lad Shaba said he doesn’t believe one per cent is sufficient.
“I don't think the public will be really upset about the one per cent because it's not going to have a big impact on our budget,” he said.
Mayor Stacy Wight said she thinks this issue deserves a more fulsome report.
“Councillor Owens did send through the clerk a different policy from some other municipality and I found it very interesting that it kind of laid out all the duties of council, whether it be meetings committees, subcommittees, public events, parades, conferences, all the items that go into being a council member. And it gave a more fulsome view of the duties of being on council,” she said.
“I think that's important to note that that's not something the public gets to see. And so within that policy that was sent, and a few that I Googled later on, it gives you a better idea of what the job requires of being council and I think that's important for transparency.”
Council is always criticized when they receive a pay increase, Coun. Rick Owen said.
“Whenever this issue comes up, us that sit on council take a lot of flak. The previous council did not take raises for four years and it was more a symbolic gesture than anything else because our wages are such a small portion of the total town budget,” he said.
There’s a lot more to the job than the public realizes, Owen said.
“Now, a lot of people I'm sure think that all we do is come to meetings every two weeks, but for a councillor who takes the job seriously and is doing the job, there are committees. I believe I'm on four committees that meet monthly, there are decisions to be made there, we're making decisions that impact our neighbours and that puts us in a very awkward position. Sometimes we're making decisions where that negatively impact somebody we've known for years, but we make them in terms of what we believe is best for the town. And again, these are very awkward positions,” he said.
“One per cent when you compare the other labour settlements that have been going around is very minimal. And one per cent of a councillor's salary, one per cent of $13,691.96, is next to nothing. So, I just want to reassure people that there's a lot more to this job than what they see at the council table and that we do ... earn every penny that I'm paid. I hope the ratepayers will come to understand that, you know, there's a lot of work involved.”
Marissa Lentz, Local Journalism Initiative, TimminsToday.com