County recommending 2% remuneration increase
SEAN CHASE/DAILY OBSERVER County council is made up of mayors and reeves from the 17 member municipalities of Renfrew County.
The County of Renfrew’s finance and administration committee is recommending a two-per cent increase in remuneration for the members of County council.
The recommendation is in line with the two per cent cost-of-living increase for employees and the remuneration bylaw that was enacted in 2014 to cover the current council’s term in office. Remuneration is the financial compensation members receive for attending meetings and fulfilling other duties required in their capacity as County councillors.
Effective as of Jan. 1, 2018, each councillor will receive a base salary of $10,612 per year, an increase of $200 from last year. Councillors will not receive a separate per diem for meetings of their standing committees. Standing committee chairs will receive an additional $1,591 and chairs of ad hoc committees will receive an additional $520. Standing committee vice chairs will receive $149.
The warden’s annual honorarium will be $58,366. County Warden Jennifer Murphy, who is also the mayor of Bonnechere Valley, said she understands taxpayers always have concerns when they see the elected getting any raise but it is fair compensation for the extraordinary amount of work that these mayors and reeves take on.
“The legislation that we deal with and the amount of reading that goes on is quite a feat,” said Murphy. “You can’t just sit and read the bill. You really have to know the complexities of the changes in the bill and how it will affect our citizens and our staffs. It’s really important to be on top of this legislation.”
Murphy had asked committee if they should approve the raise but wait for it to be enacted during the next session of council following this fall’s municipal elections. The current term of County council ends on Nov. 30. However, Admaston/Bromley Mayor Michael Donohue said this is a decision they should make and let the voters decide if municipal councillor compensation is an issue.
“This is more appropriate that this body addresses this,” said Donohue. “It’s then more appropriate that, if we so chose to do so, we put our names before the electorate.”
Killaloe-Hagarty-Richards Mayor Janice Visneskie-Moore explained that for years the county froze remuneration for its councillors. When they finally did change the remuneration to accurately compensate them for their duties, there was a backlash from some of the electorate, she added.
“We were so far behind and then it came as a six per cent increase and the public were upset,” she said.
A citizens committee, established in 2014, will be reviewing the remuneration changes. One of the aspects they will study is what the impact could be from the federal government’s plan to eliminate the one-third tax free exemption for elected officials. Bruce Beakley, director of human resources, will also be undertaking a general survey of all counties in Ontario to obtain both their remuneration bylaws and the annual compensation paid out to elected officials in 2017. County council will be presented the remuneration bylaw at their Feb. 28 meeting.