Big pay increase for Guelph-Eramosa council

BRUCEDALE – Members of Guelph-Eramosa council have voted themselves a pay increase that will mean 7.3 per cent more for Mayor Chris White and 30.5 per cent more for councillors.

Council voted 4-1 to approve the recommendations from  CAO Ian Roger, with councillor Mark Bouwmeester casting the only dissenting vote.

Councillors previously decided their pay should increase to offset the loss of a federal benefit, which had made one third of their pay exempt from tax. 

The mayor was paid about $36,800 and councillors about $18,000, based on a per-meeting system. Covering the lost exemption would have raised the mayor’s salary to about $41,000 and councillors’ pay to $20,000, said Roger, at a total cost of about $12,000.

After a review of salaries in similar municipalities, which averaged $20,300, Roger recommended that councillors’ pay be set at $23,500.

“Based on our discussions at the budget meeting last week, we’ve come up with a number that seems to be in the middle of the pack,” he said.

Roger’s report did not name the comparator municipalities, but he said the one with the lowest councillor salary in the group is about to conduct a review, so the median salary will be higher in 2019.

He said comparator data shows Mayor Chris White’s salary is slightly above average over the last four years. 

White advised he did not want any increase beyond what was needed to cover the lost exemption, and his annual township salary (not including the $41,000 he gets for serving on county council) has now been set at $39,500.

In Centre Wellington, the mayor is paid $45,000 and councillors $22,500. In Erin, the mayor gets $32,800 and councillors $19,733, not including expenses and benefits.

Guelph-Eramosa does not provide councillors with any office space or any communications or computer equipment, and has been paying an annual allowance of $800 to offset these costs. This will now be increased to $1,500.

The Guelph-Eramosa changes will mean an increase of $20,758 in the 2019 council salary budget, which will now total $141,000.

The pay will now be on a bi-weekly salary system, instead of per meeting, which Roger said will reduce administrative time and costs.

Bouwmeester’s objection to the new salaries was based on the timing of the change. “I do not want to vote on my own compensation,” he said. 

He noted his preference would have been to set new salaries near the end of the previous term of council, to take effect only once the new council is elected, a process used in some other municipalities.