Responding to a move by the federal government last spring, Moose Jaw City Council has given themselves an increase in gross pay.
Ottawa eliminated the 1/3 income tax exemption for city councillors last year, essentially leaving them with less take-home pay after taxes. For some, the concern is that the change was made in the middle of a term and wasn't fair to those who sought a seat on council based on expected remuneration. It can be likened to taking a new job and being promised a travel allowance, only to have that taken away after starting the new position.
City administration recommended that the gross amount that council receives be increased so that their net take home will be the same as before. In order to do that, they would have to increase taxes or find another source of funding to cover the nearly $22,000 that the federal government would be collecting in income taxes.
Concerned with increasing property tax to cover their own income taxes, Councillor Scott McMann came up with an idea to pool their travel expenses, reduce the number of conventions or meetings they go to and then use the remainder to cover the wage increase.
"This year's budget, excluding the mayor, about $27,600 budgeted for travel and convention but last year we only spent $7,100," said McMann. "So there's 20,000 bucks and we should just adjust it."
The majority of council supported the idea and there will be no impact on the budget or property taxes. The motion will still need final approval as part of the overall budget process for 2019.
While he supported the move, Mayor Fraser Tolmie said this change can serve as a start to a larger review of what elected officials are paid. Tolmie went on to suggest local officials are paid less than their counterparts in other cities.
"Looking at the recommendation, it's (the Mayor's wage) is to go up to $79,000 and for councillors to go up to $24,918," explained Tolmie. "Yorkton, which is half the size of the City of Moose Jaw, is $81,000 and that mayor is part-time. Swift Current is $78,000 and that mayor is part-time so I think there should be an overall pay review."
During the debate, it was suggested that a third party be brought in to go through the remuneration structure for council but it's not clear when that will happen. Councillor Dawn Luhning suggested that any increases in salary should be debated by this council but should not come into effect until after the next election, saying she can't support giving herself a raise.