Beaconsfield council pay raise invokes citizen feedback
CARMEN MARIE FABIO
In an analysis of the salaries of elected officials in 22 comparably-sized cities, Beaconsfield will rank about halfway when the 40 per cent salary increase is approved.
News that Beaconsfield elected officials voted at the last council meeting December 16 to increase their remuneration by 40 per cent – the first increase implemented in the town in almost eight years – has been met with mixed reaction by residents and invoked an ongoing email debate.
“The base rate for the mayor is $46,000 and for each councillor it will be $15,333.33,” said District 3 Councillor Wade Staddon of the taxable portions of council’s salary. “For the nontaxable portion, it would be $15,787 for the mayor and $7666.67 for each councillor. “One of the points to be made is looking at comparable cities in the area, we’re still about the second lowest,” said Staddon. “Of 22 cities across the province, the new proposal would put us in about the middle.”
Council cited examples of salaries from other city councils with similar population counts including Dorval, Kirkland, and Westmount. “We should evaluate, every year, how much the salaries should be adjusted, based on inflation,” said Mayor Georges Bourelle at the December meeting, “rather than wait for five or 10 years.” One resident at the meeting asked what parameters were used to compare the salaries of elected officials of various cities.
“There’s a big divergence in (cities’) industrial footprint that we can’t really compare,” to which Staddon countered no two cities are exactly alike. “Right now, people are struggling, as we all know,” said a meeting attendee. “You all got into this position knowing exactly what your remuneration was.” District 4 Councillor Pierre Demers acknowledged it was a sensitive topic and did an informal comparison with other cities of comparable size.
“Under the current format, it costs each resident about $0.84 to have a councillor sit up here,” he said. “What we’re proposing brings it up to $1.18. We’re right in the middle even after this significant adjustment. But the fact is, it’s two raises over 18 years.” Demers said going forward; the salaries would be adjusted on a yearly basis to make them more reflective of reality.
“This job is not the same one that it was 25 years ago.” The discussion continued into 2015 through an email exchange initiated by resident Gilles Perron who further questioned the increase citing Beaconsfield’s limited commercial tax revenue combined with the city’s significant number of seniors on fixed incomes.
“At the provincial level we are seeing some austerity measures being imposed,” he wrote, “and even some higher fees for many services.” Rather than allow for the 40 per cent increase, Perron is advocating a 10 per cent increase per annum over the course of the current council’s mandate. Resident Tom Paterson pointed out it’s a well-known fact that public service has never paid well and suggested the matter of raises for council be put to a public vote.
Beaconsfield Citizen Association (BCA) President Al Gardner said the BCA would abstain from taking an official position on the topic other than to echo then sentiment that any municipal remunerative increase should be decided at the provincial level. Council will vote on the resolution February 23.