Strathcona County council members are getting a pay increase. Well, sort of.
Councillors voted in favour of giving themselves raises at their Mar.27 meeting. Thanks to tax law changes, however, their net pay will remain the same. Under new tax regulations, elected municipal officials lost an exemption that saw a third of their salaries go tax free.
Mayor Rod Frank was not ready to support the salary increase. He motioned for the issue to be referred back to an independent committee.
"My concern was, as I said at the time, handling politicians' salary must be done independently. There's a legal axiom that says 'justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done.' And I think that applies to salaries of politicians also, in the sense that handling them must be done independently. And it must also be seen to be done independently."
Council defeated Frank's motion to take the issue to committee 6-2.
The salary motion was based on a 2014 independent committee review of council salaries. Frank thought it was time to take another look to account for changing circumstances.
"One of my concerns was that the committee work was three to four years old. And that's why I wanted to refer it to another committee," he said. "We should be looking today at what our peers are doing, other communities of similar size. we should be reflecting what's happening in the community in terms of unemployment rates, the recession, and we should be up to date when we're handling things like this. That was my concern."
The raises go into effect Jul.1. The mayor's annual pay will go from a one-third tax exempt $129,247 to a fully taxable $154,782. Councillor pay goes from $71,894 to $83,172.
The overall cost to taxpayers is about $117,000 annually.