When Elk Point’s council members reviewed the schedule of honorariums during their organizational meeting on Monday, October 23 they also revealed their individual attitudes towards finances. Mayor Lorne Young began the discussion with a reminder that, as public officials, “You set your own pay, but you do so carefully. Every dollar you spend is the taxpayers’ money.”
Councillor Debra McQuinn brought up that the council members’ honorariums have not been increased in the past two terms. She suggested raising the mayor’s monthly duties rate from $600 to $1000 and the councillors’ monthly duties rate from $400 to $700. New councillor Terri Hampson responded with, “For a town that has no money, that’s a pretty big chunk.” Pegging herself as a “go big; go home” negotiator, McQuinn said that “payments need to be more in line with the scope of the responsibilities for all members of council. The Mayor is constantly in the office. He is called on constantly, bombarded with stuff…For me, this is a second job. For events like Family Day, for example, I’m at the arena early flipping pancakes and I leave late after cleaning up. I don’t balk at the work, but it takes a toll. For some meetings and conferences, I have to take time off work and take vacation time, which reduces my personal time with family.” She pointed out that councillors potentially face loss of employment income while tending to municipal duties.
Hampson admitted, “With that perspective in mind, I would agree to raising the councillors’ duty rates by $100 a month.”
Dwayne Yaremkevich, who has been on council for more than 15 years, noted that the honorarium in Elk Point has been constant for at least two terms, and jokingly replied to Hampson’s comment with “we should triple that!” However, he continued more seriously by saying that it would be reasonable to adjust the rates for the cost of living.
Sherry Bower-Gagne, new to council, said, “I do believe that with our economic situation and with people still recovering, if we raise the rates, how will that affect the bottom line of the town? I do not feel comfortable raising rates in bad economic times. However, I’m also not familiar with the amount of work that goes into it.”
Young reiterated his stand that “every dollar we spend is a public dollar. We would all need to explain to the public why, in the economic times we’re in, and when we’re talking about fiscal responsibility, we chose our very first action to be to raise our salary. We would also be setting expectations for our employees. We have managed, over the past few years, to squeeze small raises for our employees out of the budget, but very small. Please keep in mind that a hundred dollar increase represents a 25% increase, or in the case of the mayor, a 12.5% increase. It’s substantial.”
Yaremkevich admitted he had not considered that the increase would be 25% and agreed that the status quo might be satisfactory.
McQuinn said, “I’m not here to gouge, I just wanted to throw it out there. I’m not unreasonable. I can table it for this year, but I might bring it up again next year.” She did go on to review other rates on the schedule, and mentioned that all-day functions might be a new line of payment, so that for longer meetings there’s a little more than $150 in compensation.