In light of Canada Revenue Agency’s policy to eliminate the federal one-third tax exemption on elected officials’ remuneration, which comes into effect Jan. 1, 2019, a Council Remuneration Reference Group in Quesnel was created to discuss the changes.
The group was made up of outgoing councillors John Brisco, Ed Coleman and Sushil Thapar.
Council approved some of the group’s recommendations at the Oct. 23 meeting.
Remuneration will increase by 12.4 per cent for the mayor, and 10.5 per cent for councillors, to offset the effect of one third of remuneration no longer being tax free.
There will also be additional compensation for acting mayor, from $50 to $200 per month; additional compensation for standing chair committee, from $50 to $100 per month; and additional compensation for select chair committee, from $25 to $50 per month.
The Council Remuneration Reference Group also recommended an increase of $5,000 to the mayor’s salary and $1,750 to each of the councillors salaries, “in recognition of the work required as the city is a community in transition,” according to a City of Quesnel press release. The mayor of Quesnel’s current salary is $44,300, and councillors receive $15,200 each.
Mayor and council will also receive a City of Quesnel jacket, valued at approximately $100, which reflects the city’s branding.
According to a City of Quesnel staff report, these compensation changes will mean an increase of just over $35,000 to the 2019 budget.
The Remuneration Reference Group had also recommended contributions to RRSPs for mayor and council, as well as having the City pay 50 per cent of a benefits package. These were debated in chambers and eventually removed from the recommendations.
Outgoing councillor Coleman said the remuneration must be looked at as something that’s going to happen once in 15 years.
“We are setting up conditions so that we can attract a good council and a good mayor. The standards are higher than ever before in what’s expected,” he explained.
Coleman has seven years of experience as a council member, as does John Brisco, while Sushil Thapar has 16 years’ experience.
Coleman also commented that one of the guiding principles of the changes was to compensate and attract a wider segment of the public.
“You want the compensation for expenses and stipends to be at a level that’s accessible to anyone in the public.”
Mayor Bob Simpson agreed. “There has to be a stimulus for people who may not have other income to consider coming into council. And I think those are voices that we should try to get in council,” he said.
Due to taxation, Simpson said his net take home pay will actually remain largely unchanged, even with the increases.
“If you have a full- or part-time job, it depends what tax bracket the extra bumps you into. In my case, because I have other income, I bump into another tax bracket so the net take home pay just ends up being the same.
“If a person comes in and wants to make this their full-time job, their take-home pay would be higher.”
Coleman also cited the increased workload for council as a major reason for recommending the changes to compensation.
“I think the biggest thing for us that stands out is that we have a major economic transition for Quesnel. We are the most forest-dependent community in North America. No other community is dealing with it to the same degree. That economic diversification is very important. That’s critical in this decision.”