Red Deer County council will swallow a pay cut rather than top up salaries to offset federal tax changes.
“I have not seen a will from council to ask for a pay raise,” said Mayor Jim Wood, shortly after council approved its 2019 operating and capital budgets.
Wood acknowledged the issue is a “touchy situation” but said council has always relied on a citizen committee to recommend any pay changes.
“I’ve seen no will from council to make any changes to that,” he said. “Council will not be voting themselves an arbitrary raise, even though many other municipalities have.”
Wood said the county has no intention of taking the federal tax issue to its compensation committee. Previously, the arm’s length citizen committee reviews compensation prior to an election. Any pay changes do not kick in until after the election.
“I think what we’ve tried to do is take the high road in this case in recognizing there are a lot of people in this area that have had to take a job cut.
“Most of our oil people have had to take a job cut.
“It’s pretty tough to, in fact, stand up before people and say you’re taking a pay raise without having some justification.”
As of Jan. 1, the federal government is eliminating a provision that allowed one-third of elected officials’ salaries to be tax-free. That means less take-home pay for elected officials.
In response, many municipal councils, including City of Red Deer, have voted to “gross up” their salaries so take-home pay remains unchanged.
Blackfalds, Sylvan Lake, Lacombe, Lacombe County and Red Deer Public School Board among others have also taken that route.
Other councils are still wrestling with what to do.