ST. MARY’S – The Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s’ newest councillors have asked staff to explore making pension plans available to elected officials.
The move would be a first for St. Mary’s, where councillors have been responsible for looking after their own retirement savings. But, said district one Councillor Courtney Mailman, “It’s kind of nice to be breaking new ground.”
Mailman, district two Councillor Charlene Zinck and district three/five councillor, Warden Greg Wier – all newcomers to council – spearheaded the notion at the committee of the whole meeting on Nov. 18.
“Because myself, Warden Wier and Councillor Zinck are all under retirement age and we all have full-time jobs, we wanted to look at the possibility of investing back into a retirement plan,” Mailman said. “Warden Wier had mentioned it to me and I expressed an interest, and he had mentioned it to Councillor Zinck and she expressed an interest, and then the other councillors were on board with looking into it.”
Still, she added, “the sole responsibility for this would fall on us. We are not expecting, you know, a 50/50 split or a matching from the municipality. This is just something that we thought we would look into. We may all go ahead, or one of us may, but it would set a precedent for the future, for full-time working councillors to have that option.”
Chief Administrative Officer Marvin MacDonald confirmed that staff are now working on the initiative. “We just got direction to go ahead and pursue it,” he said. “It [a pension plan] would just be through a bank. It would basically be an RRSP kind of thing.”
It’s not clear what, if any, management costs the municipality might incur as a result of such a scheme. Currently, the Municipal Government Act in Nova Scotia does not require elected representatives to “buy in” to the one or more types of pension plans that are mandatory for, and administered on behalf of, town and city staff.
In St. Mary’s, councillors, the warden and deputy warden don’t receive salaries, per se, but active “remunerations” set in each year’s operating budget. In the fiscal year ending March 31, 2021, each St. Mary’s councillor will earn $13,043; the warden, an additional $8,300; and the deputy warden, a further $5,929.
Regarding any future pensions, Mailman said, “It would be taken off our income as councillors and then just go out into some form of investment for us to have down the road.”
Before that, MacDonald said, “We’re going to get somebody in to talk to us about it. The councillors can ask questions directly then.”
Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal