UPDATE: Council shelves massive pay raise, goes with cost of living increase

UPDATE: Council shelves massive pay raise, goes with cost of living increase
Cornwall City Hall

CORNWALL, Ontario – City council shelved a massive pay raise Monday night, and instead will receive increases that are based on the cost of living.

A majority of councillors, many fulfilling campaign promises, agreed to set aside controversial pay raises approved by the previous city council.

Council had a chance to go with a freeze on pay increases – councillors Mark MacDonald and Andre Rivette argued that if council is serious about cutting municipal expenses, it had a golden opportunity to do so on its own.

“I’m on a fixed income – I’m not going to lie about it,” said Rivette. “If you’re really dedicated to making things happen in this community, go to zero.”

MacDonald was of a similar mind.

“If you want to set an example you should be going to zero,” he said. “That would be a good example to set. We have to do something about the numbers.”

Council found out Monday night its draft 2015 budget comes with a 5.58 per cent tax hike.

MacDonald, Rivette as well as councillors Elaine MacDonald and Mayor Leslie O’Shaughnessy voted against the cost-of-living increase.

Elaine MacDonald suggested councillors are not paid enough.

“I can’t imagine a worse night to make a speech in favour of (the increase),” she conceded. “Currently our councillors are paid lower than what they would make on minimum wage. None of takes the job for the money – and none of us needs the money.

“We make sure we try to be fair with what comparable rates are across the province.”

But the majority felt an increase that uses the consumer price index as a measuring stick would be fair to the electorate.

“We talk about we’re behind some of the other communities. Has anyone looked at the average household income? We’re way behind on that one too,” said Coun. Claude McIntosh. “Maybe we should be looking to do something about that.”

Council received a report that outlined the raises it has earned the last 10 years has used the CPI to determine raises.

In 2004 a city councillor made $12,626. Today that same councillor pulls in $15,402 – an increase of about 22 per cent over 10 years, or about $277 a year.

The mayor made $41,907 in 2004, but now earns $51,129 – similarly a 22 per cent hike over 10 years, or about $922 a year.

Past city councils have shelved proposals from outside consultants concerning raises.

“Since at least 2006, none of the committee’s recommendations have been supported by council,” reads a report from the city clerk’s department. “Council has chosen to only take a cost of living increase.”

Coun. David Murphy suggested he’d be fine with such a scenario unfolding again.

“I think it will end up going the way it has for the last few years,” he said of council raises. “I’m more than satisfied with that.”

The previous city council was vilified in the community for narrowly approving a massive raise. The controversial pay hike for the mayor saw a jump to nearly $75,000, including a $12,000 expense budget.

Councillors were set for a big hike too – going to a little more than $25,000 a year.

Coun. Mark MacDonald maintains now is the time for cuts to the city council budget – including reducing the number of councillors to eight from 10.

“Council should be leading by example,” he said. “I strongly believe we are heading into a financial crisis with respect to funding our programs.

“We cannot fund programs the way we are funding them now.”

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