Council life is demanding, members enjoy some perks

Bringing greetings from the city, attending meetings, handling a $305.4-million budget, sitting on committees, fielding phone calls and answering emails are just a few of the tasks Red Deer city council faces.

Bringing greetings from the city, attending meetings, handling a $305.4-million budget, sitting on committees, fielding phone calls and answering emails are just a few of the tasks Red Deer city council faces.

Life as an elected official can be demanding — but there are perks to serving a four-year term in public life.

The mayor, who is the chief elected officer of the city, the head of council and the ambassador of the city, is considered always on the job.

The eight councillors spend at least 40 hours each week in what is considered a part-time position.

On top of an annual salary, council members receive breaks on entry into city-owned facilities, and lifestyle and health spending accounts. They also receive extra responsibility pay.

In 2014, full-time Mayor Tara Veer will earn $99,934.

The eight councillors — Paul Harris, Ken Johnston, Lynne Mulder, Lawrence Lee, Tanya Handley, Frank Wong, Dianne Wyntjes and Buck Buchanan — will take home $54,964 each.

The mayor’s salary is based on population while the councillors make 55 per cent of the mayor’s pay. Based on the 2013 municipal census, Red Deer’s population is 97,109, making it the third largest Alberta city after Edmonton and Calgary.

Expenses such as office supplies and conference registration are covered — $11,477 for each councillor and $25,000 for the mayor.

The mayor’s office also has an $87,063 budget that covers public relations ($63,320); mayor’s recognition awards ($7,743); scholarship awards ($1,000); hosting major events ($10,000); citizenship ceremony ($2,000); and other ($3,000).

Councillors are compensated with extra responsibility pay for participation on external boards that they have been formally appointed to by council. The 2013 daily rate for external boards (eight hours or more) is $285, or $35 per hour, and the travel time rate is $35 per hour.

The pay for meetings and travel time is equal to the amount paid by the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association for its board members.

The city pays the difference if the external board does not pay councillors the AUMA board level of pay for meetings and travel time compensation.

The mayor receives a $3,864 vehicle allowance and councillors receive 54 cents per kilometre.

As for cellphones, members receive $63 per month or $125 for using a smartphone, and $52 per month when councillors have their own Internet provider.

Each year, council members receive $500 in health spending and another $500 for a lifestyle spending account.

Members also receive a 40 per cent discount on entry fees to city-owned and operated recreation facilities and on transit passes.

Council members are eligible for basic group life insurance and accidental death and dismemberment coverage of twice their annual income.

They receive extended medical and dental coverage as provided to City of Red Deer management staff. They also have access to an optional group home and/or auto insurance program.

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