By Trevor Busch
A lack of public interest in serving on a three-person member-at-large council remuneration committee has prompted town council to extend the deadline for applications to the end of 2016.
At their Oct. 24 regular meeting, town council had voted 6-1 to establish a three person member-at-large committee to review council remuneration.
Coun. Rick Popadynetz had opposed the motion.
Administration indicated it had been advertising for this opportunity for the required minimum three-week period (as per Council Remuneration Procedure C-2, Sec. 3) which expired on Nov. 17, but no applications had been received.
“At your October 24 meeting, (you) said to create a committee for your guys’ remuneration,” said finance director and acting CAO Devon Wannop.
“However, we have not received any applications for that. We cannot do a three-person committee without any applications. So I guess our information to you is that do you want to continue to do that, or do you want to go a different way than a three-person committee at large?”
Mayor Henk DeVlieger suggested that as time is not yet of the essence with regard to a council remuneration committee, the application deadline could be extended.
“My suggestion is that we just extend the time (to apply). We’re not in a big time pinch here yet,” said DeVlieger. “So I would extend it to see if some people will apply for it. It is the most fair way to do it, I think, for council.”
Wannop sought a timeframe on how long the town should continue advertising the vacant positions on the committee.
“We can definitely continue to do that. What would be your time period for that? And then obviously you know there’s a cost to advertising.”
Under the town’s Council Remuneration Policy C-2, the mayor and councillors receive a monthly salary with a travel and subsistence allowance for required attendance at council and committee meetings and various community events.
As per policy, council usually sets the remuneration for the mayor and councillors in the fourth year of a council term, by resolution of town council.
Effective Jan. 1, 2014, current remuneration rates and allowances for elected officials are as follows:
MAYOR: Monthly Base Salary ($1,666.67); Monthly Travel and Expense Allowance ($833.33); Total Monthly Remuneration ($2,500); Total Yearly Remuneration ($30,000).
DEPUTY MAYOR: Monthly Base Salary ($1,083.33); Monthly Travel and Expense Allowance ($541.67); Total Monthly Remuneration ($1,625), Total Yearly Remuneration ($19,500).
COUNCILLORS: Monthly Base Salary ($1,000); Monthly Travel and Expense Allowance ($500), Total Monthly Remuneration ($1,500); Total Yearly Remuneration ($18,000).
In the eventuality that the town receives no applications for the committee, Coun. Andrew Prokop inquired about how council should move forward.
“The recommendation for that could be that administration provides you — there would be a committee of all — that administration would provide you with different municipalities, show you the analysis in different municipalities, and then you guys would make a decision by yourselves,” said Wannop.
Making a generalization about citizen interest in Town of Taber affairs, Wannop suggested a lack of interest from the public equated to overall satisfaction with their elected body’s record of policy direction and decision-making.
“Obviously, if there’s no people applying then they’re happy with your guys’ direction,” said Wannop. “At least, that’s one way you could put it. So we could give you guys all of the information, and you guys can make a recommendation at that point instead of going to a committee.”
DeVlieger suggested the advertising costs involved with extending the application deadline were not prohibitive.
“I don’t think the advertising cost is that high, because we have our weekly ads in The Taber Times, and it’s just one extra line ad, it wouldn’t be that expensive.”
Following discussion, town council voted unanimously to extend the council remuneration committee application deadline to Dec. 31, 2016.
The committee — if formed — may also be tasked with the consideration of adding health benefits for elected municipal officials, an idea which has been previously endorsed by Councillors Jack Brewin and Laura Ross-Giroux.
During 2017-2019 operating budget deliberations at council’s Oct. 12 special budget meeting, Ross-Giroux initially raised the issue of benefits for councillors.
At that same meeting, Wannop indicated adding benefits for councillors would require an increase of approximately 20 per cent to council’s current remuneration, representing an annual increase of approximately $30,000.