Red Deer city councillors will no longer deal with the awkwardness of setting their own salary increases.
In what many councillors called a welcome change that avoids discomfort and accusations of self-interest, a new process was adopted for adjusting their compensation.
From now on, City Manager Allan Seabrooke will conduct an extensive salary review of what other mayors get in similar-sized cities. If a five per cent difference is found, an adjustment will be made. But if the Red Deer mayor’s salary is found to be more than five percent greater than comparison salaries, it will be frozen until analysis shows it’s within five percent.
Councillor salaries will be set at 55 per cent of what the mayor receives.
This compensation review will happen in the third year of council’s four-year term, before the next municipal election (which will be 2021). Whatever salary adjustment Seabrooke deems is fair will then be applied to the next city council that forms after the election.
That way the present city council will not see any any salary change unless councillors are re-elected.
Seabrooke said the new policy takes the matter of salary increases out of councillors’ hands as council does not even have to approve the salaries that he sets — “although they can still overrule me. Anything I do can be overruled by council…”
The new practice was supported by all councillors, except Michael Dawe, who felt comfortable with the past practice. It involved making council salary adjustments according to the average percentage change in the previous year’s Alberta average wage rates.
Starting now, only salary comparisons with other similar communities will be considered by Seabrooke.
“Elected officials should not be voting on their own compensation,” said Mayor Tara Veer, adding this policy change resolves a longstanding issue.
No salary adjustments were made on Monday. City council will continue to receive present salaries of $66,360 for councillors and $125,575 for the mayor, plus a monthly phone expense.
But Council did change the way non-union staff salaries will be determined.
Each March 1, the non-union salaries will be adjusted by either the previous year’s Alberta CPI (as reported by StatsCan), or based on the lowest union settlement in the City of Red Deer collective agreements — whichever of the two is lower, said Seabrooke.
“We are introducing an unbiased, external source, from which to determine compensation changes, all in an effort to be increasingly transparent and avoid any influence by administration and management,” said Seabrooke.
“Ultimately, this new policy is about ensuring we remain competitive while simplifying the process and demonstrating our commitment to transparency and equity.”