Council voted at its budget meeting Tuesday to freeze the stipends of mayor and council members.
Councillors Surinderpal Rathor, Ivan Bonnell, Danica Hughes and Mayor Kerry Cook voted in favour of freezing stipends, while councillors Laurie Walters, Sue Zacharias and Geoff Bourdon voted in favour of raising them by 1.9 per cent as consistent with the consumer price index (CPI).
In motioning that the stipends not be raised, Rathor said he wanted to send a message to the community and senior staff that he wants to lead by personal example.
“There isn’t money growing on the trees. I don’t think that anyone has come to council for the money. We came here because we love our community, we want to make some changes, and we want our community to flourish,” Rathor said, adding times are tough and council members don’t need to receive more money.
Bourdon disagreed with the motion, saying he wasn’t asking for any large increase, but feels that an increase should be tied to the CPI.
“Not everyone is subscribing to the fact that it’s hard times. There are a lot of businesses doing well and businesses are employing people that weren’t employed before,” Bourdon said, suggesting that leading by example means setting stipend rates that are fair and equitable.
Zacharias said over the three years that council did not take an increase, the city saved $11,087.
She also disagreed with the motion and said this year she would also like to see the stipend increased to match the CPI.
Walters said that three years ago she felt good about freezing the stipends, but now that she’s on her second term of council she sees how much work it involves.
Walters also noted that council has reduced its travel and spending costs substantially, compared to past years.
“It was around 30 per cent and to me that reflects more than any increase,” she said of the reduction. The city’s director of finance, Patricia Higgins, advised council that the cost of increasing council indemnities to CPI in 2012 would be around $3,200 in total.
Bonnell said it’s always difficult setting your own pay rate, but at this point he was going to support the motion.
The matter has yet to be discussed further at city council’s regular meeting before a decision is finalized.