P60 model approved for Essex Council pay, $22,275 shortfall to be funded from reserves

The Town of Essex approved the target pay policy at the P60 level – with 40 percent of comparators above and 60 percent below – as the model for salary compensation for all elected official roles, and that the target pay policy be implemented with an effective date of January 1, 2024.

To fund that, Council also approved the post-budget approval impact of $22,275 would come from the Town's Salary Stabilization Reserve.

Adoption of the model will ensure that a Council compensation review is conducted every four-years as part of the non-union salary administration policy and would align with annual increases granted to non-union employees.

Further, Administration will investigate and provide a report on options for extended health benefits and retirement savings options for members of Council.

At the May 13, 2023 meeting, Council gave approval to a resolution that all Council compensation reviews be included within the scope of work with the Town’s non-union salary review, conducted by a third-party consultant at least every four-years.

CAO Doug Sweet noted this ensures compensation offered to elected officials remains competitive with neighbouring and comparable-sized municipalities. This also established a consistent process of on-going salary administration for elected officials.

Gallagher & Associates performed this third-party review, which Jane Mizanski of the consulting firm presented to Council for consideration at the June 17 Council meeting.

Mizanski tries to ensure when undertaking such a review that Council compensation is reflective of its role and responsibilities – including time commitments attached – is fair and reasonable to similar organizations, and is financially sustainable and reasonable.

Essex Council’s base remuneration, per diem, allowable expenses, cash allowances, and benefits and pensions, were compared to the other six local municipalities, in addition to Tillsonburg.

In 2023, the mayor received a base salary of $46,989, the Deputy Mayor earned $34,374 and Councillors received $27,030. All three roles, Mizanski said, are considered to be fairly close to the P60 model.

The P60 rate for the Mayor would be $49,854, while it would be$35,162 for the Deputy Mayor and $38,024 for Councillors, according to Mizanski’s review.

In terms of benefits, she said more than half of comparators offer access to or payment in lieu of insured benefits and/or the OMERS Pension Plan.

Currently, the Town of Essex does not offer health or retirement benefits or pay in lieu of to Council reps.

She made the recommendations Council adopted.

Brandi Sieben, Manager, Human Resources, explained in May of 2023, the Town conducted its own market survey for all Council roles, and an adjustment was made to the 60th percentile of neighbouring municipalities.

Prior to May of 2023, the previous increase was in 2019. That was a result of the one-third tax exemption that went into law that year.

Council does not have a policy for Council remuneration, which is why it was recommended it would be part of the non-union salary administration policy. Councillor Rodney Hammond was happy with the proposal. He said he is proud to serve with Council and knows fellow members are dedicated to serving their constituents.

He said Mayor Sherry Bondy and Deputy Mayor Rob Shepley are both hard working reps. He called the criticism Bondy has received for the recent raise at the County Council level unwarranted. That was a 137 percent increase, from around $13,000 to around $31,000.

Any Councillor who does not believe they deserve a raise for what they do, Hammond added, their commitment to the people who voted them in needs to be reconsidered.

Shepley said it was unfortunate this came before Council when it did. It is warranted and something put into place last year.

There could be grandstanding from local municipal politicians to take or not to take a raise in the future, and having a policy removes that and allows it to be reviewed.

He noted the rest of Council should not be painted with the same brush as the County Council raise that took place recently.

He supported the motion because keeping to the P60 model is the right thing to do.

Councillor Joe Garon liked that a review was done and does believe there should be a policy in place for remuneration. He was opposed to the raise because he believes his compensation is fair and he got into local politics to support the community.

Garon and Councillor Jason Mayti were opposed.

Sylene Argent, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Essex Free Press