After months of discussion, debate, and research, the issue of Elk Point Town Council members’ remuneration has been settled for this year. As proposed at council’s organizational meeting in October, the monthly honorarium remains the same as it has been for the past three terms: $600 for the mayor and $400 for other council members. This honorarium compensates elected officials for time spent preparing for scheduled meetings, attending unscheduled meetings with town members or staff, and attending community functions and events. Other compensation is provided for attending committee meetings and functions.
The issue of greatest debate concerned the starting and ending points to calculate mileage payments. At a previous meeting, Councillor Debra McQuinn suggested that mileage should be paid from Elk Point to the meeting location including instances when the councillor is already, either for personal or business reasons, in the location where the meeting is being held. At the February 26 meeting, she reiterated her stand, explaining, “As a councillor, when I’m wearing this hat, this is the office I’m working out of.” She said that regardless of why a councillor is already at the out-of-town meeting location, he/she should receive mileage compensation when working for Elk Point in an official capacity. “This is fair, equitable, and consistent with business,” she told the council.
However, Mayor Lorne Young is uncomfortable claiming travel expenses when the councillor is already in the location of a meeting. Deputy Mayor Dwayne Yaremkevich concurred, “To me, if you have an expense claim, you claim it. If you don’t, you don’t.” Since driving to work is not reimbursed, attending a meeting where one works already should not be reimbursed. Councillor Terri Hampson added, “I like to think it doesn’t matter where you work. It shouldn’t be the fault of the community to pay.”
In a recorded vote, councillors defeated the motion: “that a council member be compensated from the town office of which they represent.” Voting in favour of the motion was Councillor Debra McQuinn, and opposed to the motion were Mayor Young, Deputy Mayor Yaremkevich, Councillor Hampson, and Councillor Sherry Bower-Gagne.
Other points regarding expenses include encouraging carpooling, not charging meal expenses when attending a function where a meal is provided, and reimbursing $100 per day to members-at-large for the Subdivision Development and Appeal Board, and the Municipal Planning Commission when attending meetings as part of their duty.
Currently, expenses are tax free if they are paid with a cheque from the town. However, beginning in 2019, Canada Revenue Agency says, “non-accountable allowances paid to elected officers will be included in their income.”