1/28/12

No Fat Cats Here Despite Raise

Every time I've seen Parliament, Queen's Park or a big city council vote members a fat raise, I have denounced the inequity of it. So, I was mindful of the whiff of self-hypocrisy when I recently voted with the majority to give Mississippi Mills councillors a modest raise. The justification for voting for the raise among councillors varied. (Some residents may think there is no adequate justification.)

The main reason was remuneration catch-up. The current annual salary for a Mississippi Mills councillor is $13,000, far less than councillors in comparable towns: Carleton Place, $17,500; South Glengarry, $16,000; and Smith Falls, $15,700. Carleton Place and Smith Falls also pay members a per diem when they attend conferences and seminars, on top of travel expenses. Mississippi Mills pays just travel expenses.

Salary inequality had little to do with my support. We have 10 councillors while those other towns have five or seven. In my case, I believe we are not adequately compensated for expenses related to being a councillor. One-third of our salary is tax-free, and that is supposed to be compensation for expenses. For someone in the lowest tax tier, like me, the savings is $650. That does not cut it.

The biggest expense is transportation to meetings and constituency events. While five councillors are within walking distance of Townhall, some drive 30 kilometers round trip. I calculated that if I was paid $0.46 per km (the going rate for Town staff) for all my Council-related driving, it would total $1600 annually.

A council subcommittee looked at several additions to councillors' remuneration including: mileage for those far from Town hall, per diem's for outside events, and a small discretionary fund for councillors (the mayor already has one). In the end, the Finance Committee voted 6 to 4 just to give everyone a modest raise of $150 a month. There is less administrative overhead in a salary increase than in managing mileage or per diems.

The raise brings a councillor salary to $14,800 annually—hardly fat cat territory. The $19,800 in additional salaries is equivalent to 0.33% of the tax rate applied to assessment. For the average tax bill, it will equal $4 per year.

Update: The final Council vote was 8 to 3 in favor of the increase.

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