Kneehill County council may cut their own pay cheques to set an example in tough financial times.
The lengthy discussion was held during the Jan. 26 regular council meeting and presented on the county’s youTube channel.
County Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Mike Haugen presented a report on, in effect, possibly cutting councillor’s pay after councillors themselves requested more information at a meeting in December.
Haugen included in the report the topics of base pay, per-diem amount, ad hoc meeting without council approval, mileage, meals, communication pay and divisional meetings.
Haugen also included information staff collected from other municipalities on how their councillors are paid.
In a chart presented at the meeting it was stated Kneehill County councillors are paid an annual base of $27,958.80, the reeve is paid $36,468 and the deputy reeve $31,605.
In comparison, Rocky View County councillors receive a base annual of $83,599.36, the reeve $114,748.14 and their deputy reeve $87,238.06.
Coun. Ken King stated the way he looked at it, base pay covers everything a councillors does except council meetings, council committees and any special pre-approved events.
King stated things like attendance at photo ops and Remembrance Day are included in base pay.
Coun. Jim Hugo, looking at the average per diem rate, Kneehill councillors are paid, $395.07, suggested this be cut to $200 for regular council meetings and $100 for committee meetings, with a future review of the mileage paid to councillors for travel.
Coun. Glen Keiver stated travel in personal vehicles is expensive and felt mileage rates should be left the way they are.
Reeve Jerry Wittstock noted some councillors travel further than others on county business.
Coun. Wade Christie stated that being reimbursed for time while travelling is fair especially if using provincial mileage rates.
Coun. Faye McGhee asked for clarity on why this discussion was being held, as she understood cuts were being discussed because of financial realities.
Hugo stated the current economic situation is one reason, and that council overstepped by giving themselves a previous pay raise.
McGhee responded she had no problem with reducing councillor pay and stated comparing equal duties to equal duties is fair, but pointed out elected councillors bear a lot of responsibility, including legal risk.
King stated he felt the reason for the discussion was, firstly, reduced revenues coming to the county and secondly, leaders should set an example in financially tough times when cuts may be needed.
King added he felt a 10 per cent cut in councillor base pay was acceptable while per diem would be cut 15 per cent and leaving mileage at the industry rate.
He noted the communication allowance, $200 per councillor for things like phone bills and internet use, was fine especially during the pandemic.
Coun. Debbie Penner stated she agreed with the cuts proposed, but noted she felt the communication allowance should be discussed further.
McGhee agreed with King, stating by not paying mileage the county may discourage people from running for council if they live remotely.
Haugen asked councillors to summarize what they’d debated as base pay included anything that’s not an official council meeting, and at that point in the meeting they seemed to agree.
Councillors further discussed how they should be paid for very short and very long meetings and discussed an option to cut their per diem even more, by 17 per cent.
Eventually councillors directed administration to draft proposed changes to council remuneration based on their discussion and bring it back for them to discuss again at a future meeting.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, East Central Alberta Review