Municipal employees in Sundridge may be only one meeting away from being awarded a 6.1 per cent wage increase for this year and five per cent increases for 2023 and 2024. Council has directed staff to come back to the June 8 meeting with a draft of the wage schedule for further discussion. Council began debate in April to raise municipal employee wages because of a sudden spike in inflation this year. An earlier report calling for increases of 10 or 20 per cent in one year was rejected by council. Staff modified that report at a second council meeting in April where the 6.1 per cent increase was proposed and more to council's liking. Council's addressed increases for 2023 and 2024 at its May 25 meeting. During the debate, Mayor Lyle Hall said considering there is a municipal election this fall and the new council won't take office until December, that wouldn't be enough time for newly elected officials to familiarize themselves with the wage issue in time to award new increases in the New Year. Hall suggested the present council decide the wage increase for 2023 and the new council could decide the 2024 wage hike. Staff told the council the cost of living has been rising each month and no one really knows where it will be later this year. Clerk administrator Nancy Austin said the municipality typically uses the cost of living numbers that come out in November to help it calculate increases for the following year. Austin said the cost of living could be substantially higher and could approach seven per cent. But staff made it clear its latest report to council did not recommend this kind of increase for future years. The staff report puts a five per cent cap on wage increases for both 2023 and 2024. The next council can also lower the cap. All members of council were on board with capping wage increases to five per cent in each of the next two years. As for the 6.1 per cent increase for 2022, it will be applied retroactively to June 1 since council won't meet again before that date and assumes council will approve the proposed draft wage schedule at the June 8 meeting. When staff was putting together an earlier report detailing the financial impact of a 6.1 per cent increase, the added cost to the municipality was about $53,000. However, council was able to negate that increase by finding $50,000 in savings by scaling back some work at its Edgar Street Park and its waterfront. In supporting the wage increases, Coun. Barbara Belrose recognized there are non municipal employees who will likely not see wage increases to negate the effects of inflation on their current salaries. But she defended the council's actions to award staff higher wages. “Unfortunately, we're the only ones that know this staff is worth every dime we give them,” she said. “And we want to keep them all.”
Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The North Bay Nugget