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Council eyes looking at roles as full-time

City council has taken a step towards looking at the possibility of turning city council positions in Guelph into full-time jobs.
Without debate, council unanimously passed a motion Monday directing city staff to report back in 2013 on “the options and implications” of reviewing what the employment status and composition of council should be.
Any changes would take effect with the 2018-2022 term of council, the motion says. It also says next year’s report will look at “administrative efficiencies” that might help councillors with their workload.
There seems to be considerable support on council for going full-time and for changing the size of council, which would mean reducing the number from the current 12 ward councillors.
A survey of councillors this summer found considerable support for going full-time and for changing the number of councillors, a city staff report says.
Asked to agree or disagree on whether being a councillor should be a full-time position, 25% of Guelph councillors agreed and 33% strongly agreed, the report says. The report, which doesn’t specify who voted how, says 17% were neutral, 8% disagreed and 17% strongly disagreed.
As part of the same survey, council members were asked if “council has the right number of councillors,” and only 32% thought so. The report says 41% of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed with this statement, 16% were neutral and 32% agreed or strongly agreed.
Guelph currently has one councillor for about every 10,200 residents, the report says. It says a 2008 Guelph study of 31 Ontario municipalities with populations over 60,000 found that eight of them had full-time councillors. In these eight, the ratio of councillors to residents ranged from 22,600 to 60,800.
Guelph’s 12 ward councillors are considered part-time employees of the city, while the mayor’s job is full-time. After a review by a five-member citizen committee, council approved increases in councillors’ pay to $29,706 a year and the mayor’s pay to $88,984, effective in 2011. Since then, the salaries have been automatically adjusted each year by the same percentage as is received by the city’s management staff.
Changing the number of councillors in Guelph would have “budgetary impacts associated with an increase in compensation and benefits and the need for an enhanced level of administrative support,” the report says.
“The prospect of transitioning to full-time councillor status inherently raises further questions surrounding council composition, ward boundary adjustments and community engagement/support.”
Guelph city council was elected using an at-large system of election from 1929 to 1988. A question that appeared on the 1988 election ballot led to a transition to a ward system with two councillors for each of six wards.

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