Red Deer City councillors (from left) Tanya Handley, Ken Johnston and Michael Dawe at a recent council meeting. Red Deer council was among those that recently tackled whether to increase salaries to compensate for federal tax changes that would have cut take-home pay. Red Deer Advocate file photo

Red Deer City councillors (from left) Tanya Handley, Ken Johnston and Michael Dawe at a recent council meeting. Red Deer council was among those that recently tackled whether to increase salaries to compensate for federal tax changes that would have cut take-home pay. Red Deer Advocate file photo

Councils pondering pay increases

Councils taking different approaches to dealing with federal tax changes that would mean pay cuts

Central Alberta municipalities are taking different approaches to the awkward question of whether to increase council pay to offset federal tax changes.

As of Jan. 1, a one-third, tax-free portion of salaries for councils, commissions and other bodies of elected officials is being eliminated by the federal government. That means a significant cut in take-home pay, unless they top up salaries to compensate.

For councils, voting to increase their own pay is often a sensitive issue.

A Red Deer Advocate poll found 92 per cent of respondents were against Red Deer city council’s plan to increase salaries to keep take-home pay the same. The move passed narrowly 5-4 last week.

RELATED:

Red Deer council votes to boost pay

Council considers pay increase

Around Central Alberta, others had already topped up their salary before Red Deer’s politicians tackled the issue. The Town of Blackfalds, city and county of Lacombe and Red Deer Public School Board had made the adjustment.

The Town of Sylvan Lake voted to lift its salaries on Nov. 26, the same night the City of Red Deer’s council did.

Joanne Gaudet, town communitions officer, said council was well aware the compensation issue was proving controversial in some communities.

“We were cogniscent of that,” said Gaudet.

To get an outside opinion on the issue, the town turned to the members of its 2016 Citizen Council Remuneration Committee. That committee recommended boosting the Sylvan Lake mayor’s salary by 30 per cent and councillors’ pay by 24 per cent after finding compensation had lagged far behind other similar communities. The increases did not kick in until after the fall 2017 election.

On the federal tax exemption question, committee members decided that it was “not appropriate for council to personally absorb a net wage decrease because of a federal decision,” says a report to council. Adjusting pay was “warranted,” the committee concluded.

Gaudet said having that arm’s length opinion helped council’s decision making.

“I think that kind of took a lot of the debate out of it,” she said, adding council mostly talked about their unhappiness with the federal government’s decision and its timing midway through the council term.

Mayor Sean McIntyre voted against the increase, preferring to deal with the decision in a future compensation review.

Sylvan Lake also looked at what other comparable communities — Stony Plain, Strathmore, High River, Beaumont, Lacombe, Cold Lake and Camrose — were doing. At the time, five of seven had increased their pay and two were still reviewing it.

The Town of Olds council has also voted to boost honorariums by 14 per cent in its 2019 budget.

“This impacts the town budget by $25,680, and is purely an increased cost on income tax payable to the federal government,” said Doug Wagstaff, director of community services.

Town of Stettler chief administrative officer Greg Switenky said they are still reviewing their options. Those options include doing nothing; increasing remuneration by 11 to 14 per cent to keep take home pay the same; or choosing a lower percentage increase, but making other expense changes.

A decision will be made as part of 2019 budget deliberations this month.

The Town of Ponoka is putting its own spin on how to deal with the prospect of a council pay cut.

Administration is recommending that the one-third portion of a council member’s pay that was tax free be boosted by 15 per cent.

“The intention is to recognize or offset the reduction in net income that the council members will incur,” said town communications officer Sandra Smith. If approved, council members will not see their pay cut completely offset, but the impact will be reduced.

Council will debate the issue on Dec. 11.



pcowley@reddeeradvocate.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Alberta’s declining COVID-19 numbers are a positive sign for the province. (photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Red Deer down to 634 active COVID-19 cases

Central zone down to 2,054 active cases

Brandon Wheat Kings defenceman Rylan Thiessen (26) guards the front of the net as goalie Connor Unger makes a save on Winnipeg Ice forward Skyler Bruce during a Western Hockey League game on April 14 at the Brandt Centre in Regina. Brandon won 5-3. (Keith Hershmiller Photography)
Two big trades provide stability for Red Deer Rebels

All Connor Ungar wanted was an opportunity and he’s finally found it.… Continue reading

(Screenshot).
Seven central Alberta charities benefit from community foundation grants

Seven central Alberta charities have received grants from the Red Deer and… Continue reading

Red Deer Gun Show organizer, Harold Drok, is concerned $1 fee from each ticket sale will go to Westerner Park once shows can be restarted there. This new policy replaces parking fees which will be waived for future Westerner Park events. (Black Press file photo)
Event organizer concerned about Westerner Park’s new parking fee model

A show organizer is concerned this could impact proceeds

A rodeo south of Bowden drew a huge crowd on May 1 and 2, 2021. (Photo courtesy Mom’s Diner’s Facebook page)
Organizers of central Alberta anti-lockdown rodeo plead not guilty

Ty and Gail Northcott charged under the Public Health Act

Red Deer musician Curtis Phagoo is glad the Alberta government is investing $2 million to help the province’s live music industry, but he would have liked the criteria to be expanded, so the money could be used as relief to cover revenue shortfalls. (Contributed photo by Cory Michaud)
Red Deer musicians welcome $2M in grants to help live music, but would have preferred relief program

The money is for future projects and can’t be used for retroactive expenses

FILE - Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee speaks to reporters Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. Lee has signed legislation putting public schools and districts at risk of losing civil lawsuits if they let transgender students or employees use multi-person bathrooms that do not reflect their gender at birth. Gov. Bill Lee signed the bill Friday, May 14, 2021 cementing another policy into law in Tennessee that LGBTQ advocates say discriminates against their community. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, file)
Tennessee to mandate bathroom signs about transgender use

Tennessee to mandate bathroom signs about transgender use

(CPAC)
Trudeau says he knew about investigation into general overseeing vaccines weeks ago

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he learned weeks ago that… Continue reading

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada-USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. Canadian residents are allowed to head to the United States for a COVID-19 vaccine and avoid quarantine on return if they meet some straightforward conditions, the Public Health Agency of Canada confirms.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
Canadians can drive to U.S. for COVID-19 vax and avoid quarantine, Ottawa confirms

TORONTO — Canadian residents are allowed to head to the United States… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Quebec can modify part of the Canadian Constitution unilaterally: Trudeau

MONTREAL — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Quebec can unilaterally modify part… Continue reading

In this Thursday, April 29, 2021, file photo, giant bucket-wheel excavators extract coal at the controversial Garzweiler surface coal mine near Jackerath, West Germany. Canadian environmentalists are welcoming a report from the International Energy Agency that says new fossil fuel investment must end if the world is to meet its climate goals. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP -Martin Meissner
Canadian environmentalists happy with International Energy Agency report

Environmentalists say a report from the International Energy Agency that concludes investment… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Ceasefire needed in Israeli-Palestinian conflict to avoid loss of more civilians: PM

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada is calling for a… Continue reading

A forest fire burns late into the evening northeast of Prince Albert, Sask., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Kayle Neis
Saskatchewan wildfire grows, forcing evacuations in the area to expand

PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. — Dry conditions and strong winds caused a large… Continue reading

A man makes his way past signage to a mass COVID-19 vaccination centre at the University of Toronto's Mississauga campus during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on Monday, May 17, 2021.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Tam hopeful for summer even as Canada hits grim death milestone in COVID-19 pandemic

OTTAWA — Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam says she expects… Continue reading

Most Read