By Doug Hallett
Council has approved a phased-in salary increase of nearly 22% for Guelph’s mayor and a Dec. 1 pay hike of about 5% for other council members.
“We recognize this has a number of sensitivities associated with it,” citizens’ review committee chair Greg Sayer told council. So the recommendation was that the mayor’s 21.7% pay increase be phased in over four years, instead of being paid all at once on Dec. 1.
The pay hikes were part of a package of recommendations about council remuneration made by a five-member citizens’ review committee that looked at what members of the next council to be elected in October should earn.
Among 16 Ontario municipalities that the citizens’ committee used as a comparator group, the Guelph mayor’s salary is now at the 41st percentile. The committee recommended the mayor and council should be paid at the 55th percentile, which is the percentile that council uses for setting salaries for the city’s non-union and management employees.
Coun. Bob Bell wanted this cut back to the 50th percentile for council members. “I see no reason why we should be paid more” than the 50% average, he said.
Coun. Leanne Piper disagreed. As councillors in a single-tier municipality, Guelph council members have “a wider range of responsibilities” than councillors in places with upper and lower tiers, such as Waterloo Region.
So, she said, compensating members of Guelph council at the 55th percentile is justified.
Bell’s amendment was defeated on a 7-5 vote. Voting in favour of using the 50th percentile were Bell and councillors Jim Furfaro, Cam Guthrie, Gloria Kovach and Andy Van Hellemond.
When two recommendations related to the phased-in increase in the mayor’s salary came to a final vote, they passed 12-1 with only Kovach opposed.
The salary of the mayor will rise from the current $95,383 a year to $116,226 – an increase of 21.7%. There will be a $10,000 increase on Dec. 1, followed by annual jumps on $3,611 in each of the next three years.
Guelph’s 12 part-time councillors, who are currently at the 48th percentile in the comparator group, will see their annual salaries rise on Dec. 1 to $33,433 from the current $31,846.
Another change approved Monday sees the mayor get a car allowance of $425 a month, instead of claiming mileage for use of a personal vehicle for city business. The average car allowance in the comparator group of municipalities is $636. The $425 figure lines up with what members of the executive staff team at Guelph city hall receive. The car allowance is treated as a taxable benefit.
The remuneration package approved Monday also means the mayor of Guelph will now get some pension benefits. Guelph’s mayor currently doesn’t get any pension – unlike 10 of the 16 comparator municipalities, whose mayors are covered by the same OMERS (Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System) pension that covers other full-time city employees.
The citizens’ review committee didn’t recommend that Guelph’s mayor get an OMERS pension, which would have cost the city $12,500 a year.
Instead, it recommended that 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 is “a first step” in terms of pension benefits for Guelph’s mayor, Sayer said.
Council approved the RRSP proposal on an 11-2 vote. Voting no were councillors Lise Burcher and Maggie Laidlaw, who argued in favour of an OMERS pension for the mayor.