Saturday , 31 July 2021

Next city council will get 10% pay increase

The next Cold Lake city council elected later this year will receive a bump in pay compared to the current council.

In late November, city council passed a new council compensation policy, which raised the annual amount local politicians would earn by ten per cent, beginning on January 1, 2022.

On average, that would be an increase of $2543.50 for councillors annually to $27,978.50 and $5498.30 for the Mayor to $60,481.30.

Cold Lake chief administrative officer Kevin Nagoya explained that it is typical heading into the final year of an elected term to review remuneration.

“There are pretty stark differences with regard to how much compensation that the City of Cold Lake elected officials and Mayor are getting, even within the region and the averages throughout Alberta,” said Nagoya.

“Cold Lake has been really trying to keep very conservative, keep it very tight…as much as we hate giving people raises and stuff like that in our government sectors, you can see looking at those averages–my comment is that Cold Lake is low.”

City staff prepared a report which showed a breakdown of comparables to neighbouring municipalities like the Town of Bonnyville to urban and mid-sized cities like Lacombe, Beaumont, and Brooks.

A table from the City of Cold Lake in the staff report that compares average compensation.

The table showed Cold Lake to have the third-lowest average annual compensation per councillor of the 20 communities in the comparison, and the second-lowest Mayor/Reeve annual compensation.

“Even by what they’re doing, it won’t get them even up to an average perspective, but at least put a little bit towards it so that way it’s fair,” said Nagoya.

This is the first major increase in councillor pay since 2010 and the first for the mayor position since 2014.

During budget deliberations in 2018, council considered these honorariums and whether the Mayor position should be a full-time job, which some mid-sized cities employ.

The city looked to establish a compensation review committee with a few Cold Lake residents, but city documents say despite advertising these positions, little interest was received and the idea was scrapped.

“What’s happened is that we felt we weren’t comfortable giving ourselves a raise,” said Mayor Craig Copeland on The Morning After in December.

“You’ll see that City of Cold Lake council’s always kind of done that, is that we really look at salaries every fourth year in our term and readjust it. Trust me, we’re still really low on the pay grid.”

2019 councillor and Mayor earning:

  • Mayor Craig Copeland–$67,661
  • Councillor Bob Buckle–$46,811
  • Councillor Duane Lay–$38,916
  • Councillor Kirk Soroka–$28,550
  • Councillor Jurgen Grau–$31,440
  • Councillor Vicky Lefebvre–$35,513
  • Councillor Chris Vining–$31,572

Totals include regular base pay, bonuses, overtime, lump sum payments, gross honoraria, benefits, and any other cash renumeration.

In 2019, municipalities debated whether compensation should increase to offset the eliminated Canada Revenue Agency one-third tax exemption for elected officials.

The new compensation comes in effect after the next municipal election in October, and will allow the next city council to review the policy again.

About Michael Menzies

Menzies is the editor-at-large for Connected Media Inc. Born and raised in Vermilion, he started in May 2018 during his NAIT Radio and Television practicum and reports on local politics, sports, and community issues. He became the Bonnyville Pontiacs play-by-play voice during the 2019-20 season. He also comments on provincial and national issues. Menzies hosts Connected! Evening Monday-Thursday at 5 o’clock. He also likes to buy books and read some of them.