By Doug Hallett
A city council committee has endorsed recommendations that Guelph’s mayor receive a phased-in salary increase of nearly 22 per cent and councillors get a much smaller pay hike.
These were among several recommendations on compensation for the mayor and councillors made by a five-member citizens’ review committee, which were endorsed in a 4-0 vote at Tuesday’s meeting of council’s governance committee. If council approves the recommendation on the salary of the mayor, it will rise from the current $95,383 a year to $116,226 – up 21.7%. Among 16 Ontario municipalities that the citizens’ review committee used as a comparator group, the mayor’s salary is currently at the 41st percentile, says a report from the committee. It decided the salary of the mayor should rise to the 55th percentile among this group, which means a 21.7% increase.
It’s being recommended that this increase be phased in. A $10,000 increase on Dec. 1 would be followed by annual jumps of $3,611 in each of the next three years.
Raising the salaries of the city’s 12 part-time councillors to the same 55th percentile means a pay hike of about 5% on Dec. 1, up to $33,433 from their current annual salary of $31,846. Guelph councillors are currently at the 48th percentile in the comparator group.
The recommendations of the citizens’ review committee were endorsed after brief discussion by Mayor Karen Farbridge and governance committee members Todd Dennis, June Hofland and Ian Findlay. Committee member Bob Bell was absent. Before the vote, Farbridge noted that Ontario’s Municipal Act says it’s up to municipal council members to set their own salaries.
“This is obviously a very awkward position to be placed in,” so council “delegated” the matter to a citizens’ committee to review in 2010 and then again this year, Farbridge said. “I don’t think there could be any better practice for us,” she said.
Most of the discussion at Tuesday’s meeting was about another of the citizens’ committee’s recommendations, namely that councillors – but not the mayor – get 5% more salary when they chair a standing committee of council.
Farbridge said she favoured this extra 5% for councillors, as the extra workload of chairing standing committees has been growing in recent years.
Farbridge also said she was also happy with the citizens’ committee’s recommendation about regular annual pay increases for all members of council (which are on top of the adjustments being recommended to take Guelph council members to the 55th percentile among the city’s comparator group).
Up to now, these annual pay increases for council members have been the same as the increases approved by council for the city’s non-union staff, and this raised conflict-of-interest concerns for the citizens’ committee and for Farbridge. The recommended change means council’s annual pay increase will be based on either the Consumer Price Index change in Ontario or the increase given to non-union staff, whichever is less.
Greg Sayer, the committee’s chair, said the committee had decided against recommending that Guelph’s mayor be covered by the OMERS (Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System) pension that covers other full-time employees of the city. This would have cost the city $12,500 a year. Instead, it recommended the city match an RRSP (Registered Retirement Savings Plan) contribution on the taxable portion of the mayor’s salary, which will cost the city $2,114 a year. This “offers some form of pension and allows city council to revisit the issue at some future date,” Sayer told council.
His committee also recommended a vehicle allowance of $425 a month for the mayor. The various changes recommended by the committee will cost the city a total of $46,288 a year more, with the three additional phases of salary adjustment for the mayor adding a total of $10,833 more to this annual bill over the next three years.
The five citizen volunteers on the review committee appointed in February were Janet Roy, president of Premium HR Solutions; Lloyd Longfield, president of the Guelph Chamber of Commerce; Greg Sayer, director legal services at AgriCorp; Amy Kendall, chair of Conestoga College’s School of Business and Hospitality; and Alan Jarvis, a retired former vice-president of human resources at The Allianz Group.
By Doug Hallett