Dufferin News Melancthon Municipal Politics

Melancthon Council gives itself a pay raise in 2021

But not all members voted for it…

Melancthon council gets a pay raise

The Deputy Mayor and the regular members of Melancthon Council are each getting a $2000 raise in 2021, followed by another $2000 pay bump in 2022. The Mayor of Melancthon will be getting a corresponding $600 increase each of those same years. That being said, some councilmembers committed to donating the differential in pay as they are not supportive of the measure.

“It’s a very big job and we are some of the lowest-paid councillors in Ontario,” Councillor Margaret Mercer told Dufferin News. “The job does not have any kind of perks attached to it. Our CAO makes the ‘Sunshine List’ which is kind of interesting.”

At the October 15th Melancthon Council Meeting, Mercer brought a motion before council that would increase the pay of councillors from $10,891.15 to $12,891.15 before the end of their term. The deputy mayor’s wage would go from $12,078.98 to $16,078.98, and the Mayor would move from $17,425.61 to $18,625.61 by 2022. This stems from an earlier meeting in September when council asked staff to prepare a wage comparison consisting of information from surrounding municipalities. This was presented at the October 1st meeting, where Mercer provided the formal notice of motion on this matter.

When the motion on the pay increase for Melancthon council hit the floor, it was moved by Councillor Mercer and seconded by Councillor Wayne Hannon. They both, along with Deputy Mayor Dave Besley, voted in favour. Mayor Darren White and Councillor David Thwaites voted against the motion. The Mayor and Councillor David Thwaites told Dufferin News that they would be donating their differential in pay to charity. Mayor White said he would be providing receipts to the township as proof. In the end, the motion passed in a 3-2 vote.

Dufferin News e-mailed all members of the Melancthon Council for comment on this matter on November 6th, the day after council approved the minutes from the October 1st meeting. All but Deputy Mayor Dave Besley responded by the time of publishing this article.

Councillor Mercer stated that the salary is a barrier to entry and limits who is going to run for council. She emphasized the need to broaden the pool of candidates and offer opportunities to everybody in the community. Four out of five members of the Melancthon council were acclaimed this term, with only Deputy Mayor Dave Besley being elected to the seat.

“If somebody needs to work, if they have a mortgage for example, they would never be able to run for council because the hours are so demanding and they would have to give up their other job” explained Mercer. “It’s really not fair, it’s almost an elite kind of place to be, and I don’t think a council position works well in that respect.”

“I think the job is a lot more work than some people realize,” explained Councillor Wayne Hannon. “There’s a fair bit of expense. By the time you get done carrying out your duties, it’s significantly less pay.” Similar to Mercer, Hannon also raised concerns about the attractiveness and accessibility of being on council, saying it is not meant to be a ‘retirement club for wealthy people’.

“I would question any person who does not support an increase because it makes me think they do not want competition,” said Mercer. “The Mayor has been there [on council] ten years. People want to step up to be mayor, and that is a huge job being mayor. It’s got be attractive.”

The Mayor of Melancthon, Darren White, provided the following, “I believe that municipal councils should strive to be competitive with regards to compensation, but when considering any change or increase in pay, should only put it in place for the next council after an election therefore not voting on their own pay rates.” Councillor David Thwaites had similar views.

“Any review or increase if to be considered should have waited to be effective January, 2023, the new term of next council”, commented Thwaites. “When I put my name forward I knew the compensation I was signing on for over the next 4 years, not that I would seek a substantial increase mid term, certainly not, in effect, 40% when one factored the Jan 1, 2021 and the Jan 1, 2022 increases.”

Councillor Thwaites also mentioned the importance of setting an example in the midst of a pandemic, especially when staff and citizens were unlikely to receive such a pay raise, and the ‘runway demands on the municipal tax base’.

When asked about delaying the raises until next term, Councillor Mercer told Dufferin News that no one suggested this when discussing the motion and claimed to not know that this was possible. Mercer stated that she is partway through her first term as councillor and is still relatively unfamiliar with bringing forth motions, but expects that members of council work together and make amendments in order to achieve results.

Councillor Hannon’s reasons for keeping the raises in the current term was for transparency purposes.

“As far as leaving it until next council goes, I’m not sure I want to toss them a hot potato. I’m not looking to dodge being accountable for this,” affirmed Hannon. He added that they shouldn’t leave a surprise ‘budget-slap’ for the next term’s council.

In terms of comparing pay between municipalities, The councillors all had a different opinion. As stated earlier, Mercer believes that Melancthon Council is one of the lowest paid in the province. Councillor David Thwaites stated that the pay is comparable with surrounding municipalities and that he was aware that Grand Valley’s council had taken a material pay reduction, as reported by the Orangeville Banner. Councillor Wayne Hannon made indications that the pay comparison was not useful for decision-making given the inconsistency in compensation structures between muncipalities, on top of each of them experiencing its own individual issues.

“Some of those municipalities I’m not even familiar with,” explained Hannon, “I have no idea what their issues are. It may be a very quiet municipality that isn’t experiencing the growth issues we are.”

Melancthon’s next council meeting is scheduled to take place on November 19th starting at 5 pm. It is accessible to the public via Zoom.

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