By Mike Anderson
With local businesses and residents still recovering from the impacts of the pandemic, Georgina council voted 6-1 on May 18 to raise councillors’ salaries by 33 per cent.
The Mayor’s and Regional Councillor’s salaries will also increase by 8 and 7 per cent.
The salary increases do not affect the current council’s remuneration but will kick in for the next term of council, following the municipal election on October 24.
Regional Councillor Rob Grossi introduced the motion to raise the council’s wages after a lengthy discussion over the options recommended by a staff report on council remuneration.
According to the staff report, councillor compensation was 42 per cent below the median ($51,173) paid by other comparable municipalities-although the specific municipalities were not listed in the report.
It proposed to close the gap by increasing councillors’ wages by 42 per cent to $51,173, and the Mayor’s and Regional Councillor’s salaries by 13 per cent to $84,480 and 20 per cent to $74,665, respectively.
However, Grossi’s motion lowered those increases, with the councillors’ pay increase dropping by 10 per cent, the Mayor’s by 5 per cent, and the Regional Councillor’s by 12 per cent.
The Mayor’s salary is now set at $80,662 (up 8.03 per cent from $74,665), the Regional Councillor’s salary is $50,662 (up 7.8 per cent from $46,996) and a councillor’s salary is $48,000 (up 32.7 per cent from $36,151).
Both the Mayor and Regional Councillor also get a salary from York Region, each receiving $59,338 for Regional Council responsibilities.
The total compensation for the Mayor is now $140,000 and for Regional Councillor $110,000.
While Mayor Margaret Quirk acknowledged that it was awkward to talk about salary increases with a municipal election just around the corner, it didn’t stop her from voting in favour of the motion.
“We have a responsibility to ensure that the wage does remain competitive; that it stays within the methodology that we use for our other staffing,” she said.
“A councillor requires a wage that is commensurate with the knowledge and responsibilities that a member of the council has in terms of budgeting, dealing with the issues that come up on a day to day basis, dealing with individual residents, and the committee’s council members sit on.”
Mayor Quirk also said low wages would not attract a strong pool of council candidates.
“We’re limiting a great number of people that would possibly want to seek election and a seat on the council,” she said.
“They may look at the salary of $36,000 and say, I can’t afford to give up my full-time job.”
Councillors Dave Harding, Frank Sebo, Dave Neeson and Dan Fellini also voted for the pay increase, arguing that the job was not part-time and required sitting on multiple committees, as well as the boards of community organizations.
Neeson added that councillor’s are required to oversee a municipality, equivalent to a $100-million corporation, but are paid $36,000, just slightly more than a minimum wage earner.
Ward 1 Councillor Mike Waddington cast the only opposing vote.
Waddington argued that councillors’ salaries should not be compared to staff compensation, as staff are required to have formal qualifications, while the qualifications for running for council are limited to age, citizenship and not being in jail.
“To compare councillors’ salaries to staff is a bit disingenuous because our staff have qualifications that they need to meet. And frankly, we don’t,” he said.
“One of the skill sets that all politicians share is the ability to win a popularity contest. That’s relatively it.”
Waddington also said increasing councillors’ salaries would not necessarily attract better candidates but would benefit incumbents instead, splitting the vote and making it easier for them to retain their council seats.
He also pointed out that councillors are compensated $40 for attending each Town committee meeting, implying they did not need further compensation.
“I’ve got no interest whatsoever in voting for us to receive any increase,” he said.
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