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Mayor job to be full-time; council pay going up next term

‘I do value the work we do, and to imply otherwise is offensive,’ Coun. Chris Carrier told Coun. Kathy Jeffery during talks on compensation
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Erika Engel/CollingwoodToday file photo

Duelling reports on councillor compensation caused consternation at Collingwood’s council table Monday night.

At the end of a long and, at times, contentious discussion during its regular meeting July 25, council voted to approve changing the position of mayor from part-time to full-time, keeping Collingwood council at nine members, and increasing the base rate of pay for council positions to $60,900 annually for mayor, $32,548 for deputy mayor and $28,000 for councillor to begin at the start of the 2022-26 council term.

“We don’t fight hard enough to explain to people what we do and what the role is,” said Mayor Keith Hull during discussions on the matter. “If we did a better job of communicating that, I think there would be a better appreciation that local politicians, in general, are underpaid for the work that’s done, the expectations from constituents and the risk and liability that one takes on in what is deemed to be a part-time job.”

In November 2021, council voted in favour of recommendations out of a council compensation report completed by Gallagher Benefit Services Group that concluded pay for the positions should be slightly increased to be competitive with comparable municipalities.

The report recommended, and council approved, adjusting the base remuneration for mayor to $49,458 (9.5 per cent increase), to keep the compensation for deputy mayor at $32,548, and adjusting the base remuneration for councillor to $26,712 (five per cent increase) to begin during the next term of council.

In response to questions from about why a second consultant report and council vote on the matter were necessary seven months later, town clerk Sara Almas said council approved an additional $25,000 as part of the 2022 budget to be spent on a second consultant to dig deeper into council compensation and composition, as the Gallagher report was only based on comparator pay.

“Council wanted a further review with a lens on the Town of Collingwood operations, because even though we are a smaller-size municipality, Collingwood is a high-functioning, designated settlement area that does differ from our neighbours including our governance structure,” said Almas.

“The new report was under this context ... on whether increased council compensation and being full-/part-time could increase the number and quality of potential council candidates, hence the importance of concluding the review prior to the upcoming nomination.”

Christopher Chen and Matthew Tripp, on behalf of Compensation Governance Partners, presented their report Monday night, which used information gathered through interviews with councillors, a resident feedback survey that was completed by 58 residents, and a comparator group analysis that considered compensation and composition of other municipalities with a comparable budget, population, density and tourist draw.

Based on those factors, recommendations from the second report suggested the mayor role in Collingwood should be considered a full-time position and the council size should be maintained as nine. In regard to compensation, council was given three recommendations from the consultants to consider:

  1. To change compensation based on population, which would see the mayor paid $49,138 (seven per cent increase from the current salary), deputy mayor paid $32,548.05 (no change) and councillors paid $26,757 (four per cent increase)
  2. To change compensation based on the town’s budget, which would see the mayor paid $60,927 (33 per cent increase), deputy mayor paid $33,434 (three per cent increase) and councillors paid $30,542 (18 per cent increase)
  3. To only change compensation for the mayor role as it would be moved from a part-time to a full-time position, to $60,927 (33 per cent increase)

“The Gallagher report, if I recall, didn’t have an analysis like we have before us tonight, which looked at a broader range of comparable communities and recognized the significance of investment of time and energy that councillors now make,” said Coun. Yvonne Hamlin during Monday’s meeting.

“I understand those who think stepping forward to be a councillor should be a public service ... but I also offer up that I think we’re not doing a proper service to those men and women who may step up to serve our community by saying that $26,000 is enough. Having sat here for almost four years now, I believe this job is bigger and has more responsibilities than any volunteer position I’ve had.”

Coun. Chris Carrier challenged Hamlin’s point of view.

“The private sector has just gone through two-and-a-half years of hell throughout the pandemic. There’s been a lot of people who have lost their jobs and are seeing no compensation at all. Council has a compensation policy where they are given the same rate that non-union staff get, including a (cost-of-living-adjustment) increase. You have kept pace with the rate of inflation,” said Carrier.

“I respect your opinion, but I disagree with it,” Carrier said to Hamlin.

While council voted in favour of changing the mayor role to full-time equivalency by a vote of 6-2, with councillors Bob Madigan and Carrier opposed, and unanimously in favour of keeping the council of nine in place, opinions at the table were split on compensation.

Both recommendations 2 and 3 from the consultant were defeated by votes of 4-4.

Hamlin asked to split the positions into individual motions.

A motion to increase compensation for the mayor position to $60,900 starting in the new term was passed by a vote of 6-2, with Madigan and Carrier opposed. However, two motions by Hamlin to increase the deputy mayor pay by $800 and to increase councillor pay to $30,000 per year were both defeated by 4-4 votes.

Hull put forward a motion to keep the deputy mayor pay at the level supported by the Gallagher report of $32,548, which was passed by a vote of 7-1, with Carrier opposed.

When it came to councillor compensation, Coun. Kathy Jeffery spoke up against councillors who were voting against raises.

“I find that a bit insulting,” said Jeffery. “I really think ... we’re failing big time in our assessment of what’s required to sit around this table. I won’t be supporting status quo. It’s unreasonable in the current climate of increasing costs for everyone.”

She put forward a motion to increase councillor compensation to $28,000, which is partway between what was supported in the Gallagher report and what was supported in the Compensation Governance Partners report.

“It’s more than what’s been contemplated here, but I can’t believe how much you guys don’t value the work of the councillors around this table,” said Jeffery.

“I do value the work we do, and to imply otherwise is offensive,” Carrier responded. “We value it differently. I respect your opinion. I’m asking you to respect mine.”

“I apologize ... but I’m flabbergasted at what I’m hearing,” said Jeffery.

The motion passed 6-2, with Carrier and Madigan opposed.

All the changes passed Monday regarding council compensation and composition are slated to go into effect as of the next council term, which begins Nov. 15.

To read the Compensation Governance Partners report, click here.

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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen brings 12 years of experience to her role as regional reporter for Village Media, primarily covering Collingwood, County of Simcoe and education.
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