The City of Swift Current’s review of the existing policy for council remuneration and meetings was completed with the final vote at a regular council meeting, Jan. 11.
Council members voted unanimously in favour of the revisions that will result in a cost saving on their renumeration during the next four years.
The annual cost saving on council remuneration under the revised policy is expected to be approximately $40,000 per year. The cost saving will be achieved through the elimination of all claims by council members for meetings and per diems.
The mayor’s salary will remain unchanged at 42 per cent of step one of the chief administrative officer’s salary. The drop in income for councillors will be offset somewhat through an increase in their remuneration from 35 per cent to 38 per cent of the mayor’s salary.
The salary for councillors will increase from $28,800 to just over $31,000. Their total income will be lower as before due to the elimination of claims for meetings and per diems.
The mayor’s salary will remain at about $81,000 per year, but in previous years the mayor’s renumeration was closer to $90,000 as a result of claims for meetings and diems.
“We should experience about a 10 per cent savings on your average councillor’s salary,” Councillor Ryan Plewis said during the meeting. “So there certainly is a decrease in the take-home for a councillor, which I think is appropriate. As we talked in the past, this is signal of leadership and it’s maybe not the biggest line item we’re going to see in our budget, but it’s a symbolic one that I think shows that we’re serious about fiscal responsibility.”
The City gave public notification of the proposed policy change in a local newspaper and on the City website, but did not receive any feedback from residents.
“I hope that’s an indication of people silently supporting what we’re doing here and I hope that it signals that there’s some understanding in the community as well,” he said.
Councillor Leanne Tuntland-Wiebe said she received questions from people wondering how the public will know if councillors are going to attend the meetings for committees and boards that they sit on, because they are now not getting paid to do that.
“My answer would be, we campaigned on honesty and integrity,” she mentioned. “Part of our job description is that we attend these boards and committees that we had been placed on. â€¦ That’s what we’re paid for, plus on top of that, we do file a report to the City Clerk and to the mayor after we’ve attended these meetings. So I think we can put that to bed and everybody can rest that we’re going to attend those meeting, unless something comes up. That’s part of our job.”
Plewis said it has always been a practice of council that councillors will ask a fellow council member to attend a meeting on their behalf if they are unable to be there.
“We’re treating this as a team effort,” he noted. “These boards and committees aren’t just one person’s responsibility to attend. They’re the responsibility of the entirety of City council. You just happen to have one person who’s officially appointed to it.”
Mayor Al Bridal added that all council members ran on honesty and integrity during the recent municipal election, and they are forthright on what they are doing with their time.
“I have full confidence on all my council members that they are going to attend the meetings,” he said. “We’re not teenagers, we’re all adults, and so I have full confidence that little per diem or the meeting rates aren’t going to make us go to these meetings or not go to these meetings. So I have full confidence in my council.”
Bridal mentioned during a media briefing after the council meeting that he has heard from around a dozen people about the revised remuneration policy, and he is also aware other council members have received feedback from residents.
“Lots of us ran on fiscal responsibility, lots of us ran on holding the line on expenses, and people are saying what better place to hold the line than the pay we’re getting, because this isn’t a full-time position,” he said. “This is a part-time position for all of us, and the remuneration is to pay for some of our time, but we’re not supposed to be making a living doing this.”