City strikes committee on council remuneration

St. Albert city council took formal action to place decision-making on their 2011 remuneration out of their hands on Tuesday as they created a committee to be made up of local people who will decide what the mayor and council will be paid.

Council members also approved a $7,500 transfer from the council contingency fund to cover expenses.

The Council Remuneration Review Committee will be composed of five members-at-large from the community selected by city manager Bill Holtby. Originally, the recommendation was made to council that two of the five people be members of the St. Albert Chamber of Commerce or the Alberta Federation of Labour. Coun. Cathy Heron and Coun. Cam MacKay took issue with each member respectively and argued that having an open selection process would create an unbiased committee.

"I have a problem with putting the Chamber member [in], they have a very narrow focus on the City of St. Albert. It's all business, and there's a lot more to being a councillor than businesses," Heron said. "We need somebody on the committee that understands the role of being a councillor."

Holtby replied that an effort would be made to recruit a former councillor to the committee when he goes to the community to find five people willing to serve.

MacKay had a similar complaint as to having a member from the Alberta Federation of Labour, a pro-union advocacy group.

"My concern, just about this group, is not with their qualifications, but a large amount of their time is spent lobbying municipal government for higher wages and, if we're seen as having them set our wages, it seems like the issue of bias comes up in my mind," MacKay said.

Holtby told council that he would ensure that the committee would be provided with enough administrative staffing capacity to get their job done. He said having council select committee members wouldn't be seen as positive in the eyes of the public.

"A big thing with this is ensuring that there isn't a bias and that there's not a perception of bias and that's going to be key in the selection of the members," Holtby said.

The last time such a committee was struck, a group of volunteers selected the volunteers that would sit on the remuneration committee.

The mayor of St. Albert is currently paid $84,742 per year and city councillors make $29,560. The mayor also receives a development budget of $7,500 while councillors receive $5,000. The mayor's annual car allowance is set at $1,800.

Last year, council received a report on compensation delivered by the Hay Group. The council-commissioned report recommended raising salaries for non-union employees on a yearly basis as a part of 11 recommendations addressing compensation throughout the corporation.

The report, received by council on Nov. 29, 2010, included the creation of a council pay philosophy — which was handled at the same meeting — and the review of administrative policies relating to remuneration, salary grids, organization, sick leave, travel and vacation leave.

At the beginning of January, administration recommended an increase to the mayor's salary of 8.75 per cent, and an increase to councillors' salaries of 4.84 per cent. The recommendation was made after a biennial survey was made of similar municipalities in Alberta using a 60th percentile comparator.

Saint City News, Fri Apr 29 2011
Byline: Ian Kucerak

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