Town of Stettler council restored the mayor and council’s salary lost to a tax hike brought in several years ago by the federal government. The increase was approved at the Sept. 7 regular meeting of council.
Councillors heard a report presented by Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Greg Switenky which noted the subject of mayor and council pay raises is brought up prior to every election and, if approved, takes effect after the election.
He stated council was actually approving a pay increase for the next council, not necessarily themselves.
Switenky also stated the pay raise was actually more of an adjustment, as the mayor and council saw a cut in their salary a few years ago as a result of a federal government department.
The report stated the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) previously allowed about a third of a municipal politician’s salary to be collected tax free; then effective 2019 the CRA changed their policy and began taxing all of a municipal politician's income.
In effect, this CRA move cut the mayor and council’s salary.
“Back in late 2018 the Town of Stettler council decided that (in the interim of the term) they would not increase council remuneration, rather mutually agreed to each personally absorb this resulting extra taxation,” stated the staff memo.
“The ultimate decision was left until prior to the next election.”
The CAO stated the mayor is paying $3,070 more per year in taxes and each councillor is paying $1,643. To restore the mayor and council to their previous salaries they would require an increase of $4,093 and $2,191 respectively adding up to $17,500 in the 2022 budget.
Switenky noted town staff also surveyed a number of other municipalities and it appears Stettler’s council gets paid roughly what other communities pay their council; the mayor’s salary is consistent with other mayors at $35,655 per year while councillors in Stettler appear to get paid slightly less than comparable communities at $17,828 per year.
If the increase was approved, the mayor’s salary would increase to $40,036 and councillor’s to $20,018.
The staff report also noted councillors get paid a rate for things like travel.
Coun. Malcolm Fischer stated the CRA decision has cost him $1,600 per year and felt that restoring, but not increasing, councillor pay was proper.
Coun. Al Campbell stated the feedback he’s heard from the community is the mayor and councillors salaries are getting “...right up there price-wise.”
Campbell stated he hesitated to restore the lost pay.
Fischer stated he felt councillors would earn that $20,018 per year and because he wasn’t planning on running for re-election, this decision wouldn’t affect him and thus made a motion to approve increasing the mayor’s and councillor’s salaries as noted.
Fischer added that in 10 years he has never heard residents complain that council gets paid too much.
Mayor Sean Nolls, noting council pay raises are usually linked to the town’s Public Works staff raises, stated he also hesitated at approving the increases.
“I think it still makes sense,” said Nolls, referring to councillors getting a raise when Public Works staff get raises.
Switenky pointed out staff members have never had a huge tax increase placed on them by the CRA in the way councillors did.
Coun. Wayne Smith stated candidates before the last municipal election were told council salaries would be at a certain level, then through no fault of their own had some of that taken away. Smith stated he was in favour of restoring it.
Coun. Gord Lawlor noted he didn’t have a problem with restoring salaries back to where they were before the tax increase as that helps compensate a business owner on council who is away from their business.
Coun. Cheryl Barros noted councillors do a lot more than regular meetings, they have many committee meetings and other work expected of them.
Coun. Scott Pfeiffer stated he was in favour of restoring the lost salary but added voting for his own pay raise made him uncomfortable.
Councillors approved restoring the council salaries as noted in the staff report.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, East Central Alberta Review