Red Deer County’s next council will get a 6.5 per cent raise to partly make up for a nearly eight per cent pay cut politicians took in 2019.
The increase was recommended by an independent remuneration committee, which was formed before the 2010 election to provide arm’s length reviews of council salaries. Its members include local entrepreneurs and philanthropists Jack and Joan Donald, former City of Red Deer mayor Gail Surkan and former Red Deer College president Ron Woodward.
The 6.5 per cent increase is a one-time increase covering the entire four-year term of the next council sworn in following the municipal elections in October.
It will partly restore a 7.9 per cent cut in the average take-home pay for council members that happened in 2019 after the federal government eliminated a federal tax exemption.
Following the increase, Red Deer County’s mayor will make $96,926 and the six councillors will get $68,029. The per diems council members get for meetings or conferences outside the municipality will remain the same at $210 for a full day and $105 for a half day.
Coun. Christine Moore said leaving it up to an independent committee to recommend compensation is a transparent way to deal with the issue of politicians’ pay.
“The last thing we want to do is, as a sitting council, set our stipend,” said Moore.
Mayor Jim Wood agreed the process works well and noted that the pay increase is approved for the next council, which may not include some of those sitting on council now.
Unlike some municipalities, the council did not opt to increase its pay when the government’s tax changes kicked in, he said.
It is important that compensation is high enough to encourage qualified people to consider running for office, he added.
“Anyone who wants to run for these jobs, more power to them and I hope they will.”
Coun. Jean Bota also supported the method of setting pay.
“I like the simplicity in this and the transparency and I like that it happens in the next term.”
One councillor voted against the increase.
Coun. Dana Depalme said she did not feel right approving a pay raise when there are so many people who are struggling to pay their bills.
“Right now, I can’t support an increase, even after the next election. Until the economy and everything turns around with COVID, I seriously cannot,” she said.
The next municipal election takes place on Oct. 18.