Remuneration committee makes recommendations on pay for county officials

Elected representatives will basically take home the same pay under a new compensation policy for Red Deer County council.

Elected representatives will basically take home the same pay under a new compensation policy for Red Deer County council.

Red Deer County Mayor Earl Kinsella made $89,979 in 2009, including base pay, per diems for attending various job-required events and mileage. Councillors averaged $60,275 including base pay and per diems.

A four-member independent remuneration committee recommended that beginning next council term, the mayor’s base pay will be $80,500 and councillors’ $56,500.

For out-of-county meetings or events, council is eligible for per diems of $105 for a half day and $210 for a full day. A $50,000 budget for conferences, seminars and workshops was also established, with a maximum of $6,000 per council member.

Committee spokesman former Red Deer College president Ron Woodward said the committee found after a review of 16 or 17 other municipalities Red Deer County’s mayor and councillors were in line with what their colleagues were making.

Under the new system, he predicted some councillors will get a little more than last year, and others a little less.

The committee, which also included local business couple and philanthropists Jack and Joan Donald, and former Red Deer mayor Gail Surkan, wanted to establish a policy that was easy to budget and was transparent, he said.

The starting position was that all council positions should be considered part-time while recognizing that the job takes time away from councillors’ day jobs.

In overhauling the compensation policy, the committee eliminated most of the per diems paid to council. Most compensation will now come from base pay under the new policy approved on Tuesday.

Another major change will mean elected representatives will not be considered employees of the county, eligible for extended health benefits.

The new policy also calls for quarterly reports listing individual council expenses and a list of meetings mayor and councillors attended. The information will be published in the Red Deer County News and posted on the municipality’s website.

Not all councillors agreed completely with the committee’s approach.

Councillor David Hoar supported that the recommended salaries were close to current pay levels, but wasn’t as pleased with the difference in pay between councillors and the mayor.

Councillors will make roughly two-thirds what the mayor will earn, which is too big a gap considering all have an equal vote around the council table, he said.

“I think a flatter pay scale would be more appropriate.” Councillor Jim Lougheed, who was the only dissenting vote on the new policy, also felt that the differential between the two jobs was “excessive.”

Woodward said the difference in pay was determined after reviewing other municipalities, as well as a thorough examination of the number of duties the mayor faced.

“The differential was not a number that was picked out of the air,” he said.

The committee’s work drew praise from Councillor Jim Wood, who said it was difficult previously for council to set its own pay. “This process has now taken out that out of our hands.”

The new pay scale will kick in following the Oct. 18 elections. It will be reviewed again in three years.