City council confirms pay increase

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SANDRA M STANWAY
Brooks Bulletin

By a vote of 5-2 city council adopted a policy giving them a 14 per cent increase which was discussed during the 2019 budget deliberations in December.
Elected officials agreed to increase both their base pay and per diems to cover the federal government’s removal of the municipal councillor’s tax exemption. Until Jan. 1, 2019 elected officials were not taxed on one-third of their salary.
The changes, which were retroactive to the beginning of the year, will see the mayor’s base pay increase from $63,757 to $72,311 and councillor’s increase from $20,402 to $23,139.
Also affected are the per diem rates which increase from $60 to $70 for meetings up to two hours, $125 to $145 for meetings between two and four hours and from $250 to $285 for meetings over four hours. The maximum is $285 per day.
In 2017 council accepted a 1.35 per cent increase in mayor and councillor’s base pay which included an increase in per diems. That year a councillor’s pay was increased by $272 to $20,402 and by $849 for the mayor to $63,757.
In a recorded vote on Monday councillors Norm Gerestein and Jon Nesbitt voted against the raise believing it to be unnecessary.
“Even though I disagree with the federal government taking away our one-third exemption, I’m still not a proponent of taking an adjustment of 14 per cent on our base salaries and our per diems,” said Gerestein.
He said although it was approved during the budget meetings he remains opposed to the idea.
“I just don’t want to take it, basically,” he said.
Nesbitt said any form of a change in pay for elected officials should be suggested by an independent board of residents.
“I’m happy with my present salary. I feel it’s a reasonable take,” he said.
Defending the increase, Brooks mayor Barry Morishita said a citizen’s group meets every four years to determine a remuneration change.
“I don’t think that’s fair to say, ‘citizens we’re setting our own policy’ because we’re not. We’ve had someone else do that for us. We do that every four years and it will happen in 2020.”
Echoing the reasons he presented to council during the budget meeting, Morishita said if the increase was required for any other city department there would be no discussion.
He said the federal government should be the ones facing the problem with the removal of the one-third rule not municipalities.
“It is a straight federal tax transfer from municipal revenue sources back to the federal government. That’s all this policy does,” he said.
The city is the only municipal council in the region to have accepted the increase because of the one-third tax rule.
The Village of Duchess, which had not had a raise in about a decade, increased their salary year.
The Town of Bassano has not considered a change in their pay, however, it is expected to be a future discussion. The council is considering reducing the number of elected officials from seven to five, which would likely lead to a remuneration change if there is no regionalization decision.