Moncton council votes down 34 per cent pay hike

·4 min read
Moncton councillors have voted against using a formula to adjust their pay this year that would have led to a 34.2 per cent salary increase. (Shane Magee/CBC - image credit)
Moncton councillors have voted against using a formula to adjust their pay this year that would have led to a 34.2 per cent salary increase. (Shane Magee/CBC - image credit)

Moncton councillors won't be getting a 34 per cent salary increase after voting to forgo the use of a formula linking their pay to that of non-profit managers.

Council voted unanimously last Tuesday following a discussion behind closed doors the week before, though the percentage wasn't made public until this week.

As of 2021, the mayor was paid $89,170, the deputy mayor was paid $39,418 and councillors were paid $35,668. Figures for 2022 were not provided by the city.

Moncton Mayor Dawn Arnold said council viewed the 34.2 per cent increase as too steep.

"So obviously, this is concerning to council," Arnold said in an interview Monday.

"We would not want to accept that kind of an increase. And we're questioning, you know, what kind of data were they using? What was the formula?"

Shane Magee/CBC
Shane Magee/CBC

At issue was a formula council approved as part of a bylaw in 2016 that recalculated pay, resulting in what was a contentious increase councillors had rejected prior to an election. That change increased deputy mayor and councillor salaries by 25 per cent and the mayor's salary by 16 per cent.

Arnold said controversy didn't play a major role in the latest decision.

"I think it's more the environment that we're in right now that, you know, a 34.2 per cent increase seems very unreasonable," Arnold said. "I don't know of anyone that's getting an increase like that. So I think that's more in the context of today."

The formula in the city's bylaw relies on data collected by the Canadian Society of Association Executives about wages for various types of employment.

Moncton used the pay of non-profit managers in Canada as a reference point to establish salaries in 2017. The bylaw then adjusts pay yearly for four years based on the consumer price index, a Statistics Canada measure of the change in the price of goods and services.

The bylaw also calls for reviewing pay every five years based on data from the association.

Frank Vandenburg, chair of the city's enhancing democracy committee, which recommended the formula, said the committee wanted a system that wasn't arbitrary and that offered a comparison to people performing work similar to a councillor's.

"We looked at the not-for-profit sector and we looked at someone who was sort of a low to mid-level manager and said they're they have to have some budgeting knowledge, they have some HR knowledge, to have a little bit of knowledge around rules and regulations, which are the sorts of things you want in a councillor."

Vandenburg said their formula wasn't "pandemic-proofed." The report that was going to be used to recalculate pay was based on data from a period when the pandemic was affecting employment.

Some non-profits stopped reporting data to the association, while others had laid off lower-paid employees.

"So you really had results that were much, much higher than you would have had, had you had numbers pre-pandemic — or eventually when we've learned to live with the pandemic."

Shane Magee/CBC
Shane Magee/CBC

A staff report provided to news media last week, which didn't mention the percentage councillors were turning down, said the association's 2015 report used for calculating council's 2017 salaries had data from 26 groups.

That fell to seven in 2021.

"If the formula was applied as outlined in the By-law, elected officials would see a significant increase in their annual adjustment," the staff report states. "If the 2019/2020 CSAE Report was used there would have been a significant decrease."

It's unclear how much of a decrease there could have been using the 2019-20 report.

While councillors voted to forgo using the formula for the rest of their term, pay will still be adjusted based on the consumer price index. That will likely see salaries rise given recent inflation.

Councillors also asked the enhancing democracy committee to re-examine use of the reports from the Canadian Society of Association Executives and to lobby the provincial government to come up with a formula for council pay that would apply across New Brunswick.

Vandenburg said the committee will have to discuss the issue, but he speculated they could look at something like the "interrupter clause" used by the Energy and Utilities Board for regulating gas prices to account for market volatility.

Moncton council salaries * 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 Mayor $83,736 $85,662 $87,505 $88,993 $89,170 Deputy mayor $37,245 $38,101 $38,752 $39,347 $39,418 Councillor $33,495 $34,265 $35,002 $35,597 $35,668

*rounded to nearest dollar

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting