Big Valley village council had a lengthy debate over what its elected officials should be paid, pondering a staff report that stated the village’s council is among the lowest paid in Alberta. The discussion was held at the Nov. 20 regular meeting of council.
Councillors read a report from Village Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Colleen Mayne regarding council remuneration, being the rates and methods by which councillors are paid for performing their duties.
Mayne noted that Big Valley’s council remuneration policy was “very outdated” and based that comparison on a survey that was conducted of dozens of Alberta villages that listed councillor remuneration; the CAO noted all of her suggestions were based on this survey.
She noted in her report that Big Valley, for example, currently pays its councillors $30 for the first two hours and $15 for every hour after that.
Mayne suggested the councillors consider changing the policy to get more in line with what other Alberta villages pay their councillors.
The CAO noted councillors are currently paid $60 for a half day of meetings and suggested this be boosted to just over $100 for a four hour session. She also noted the council stipend, paid quarterly to councillors, sits at $333, which she described as “very low.”
The CAO also noted a recent change to Big Valley council’s mileage rate, which is paid to councillors per kilometre for using their personal vehicle to attend out-of-village meetings on behalf of the municipality, wasn’t actually valid because the resolution was never signed by the mayor.
Big Valley’s current mileage rate sits at 50 cents per kilometre and the CAO suggested it be boosted to 60, which is actually below the survey average of 61.
The unsigned resolution actually raised council’s mileage rate to 68 cents; this was on the efforts of Mayor Clark German, who was then a councillor. German did his own research and stated Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) mileage rate was 68 cents and he felt it was fair for the village to pay that.
Coun. Dan Houle, who was mayor when the 68 cent rate was proposed, voted against it at that time and now as a councillor stated he still felt 68 cents was too high.
Houle pointed out hiking from 50 cents to 68 was a huge jump, much higher than inflation. Houle also stated the provincial government mileage rate is 55 cents.
Houle continued by saying Big Valley isn’t budgeted for any remuneration increases this year.
German stated he was comfortable using the provincial survey results as a benchmark, as it polled 47 villages on their rates and pay.
Houle, looking at the suggested increases, stated he was concerned as some appeared to almost double.
Councillors then discussed a change made in 2022 to reduce council pay rates; at that time Houle stated he felt paying councillors for the first two hours or portion thereof at a meeting was too expensive, as many village meetings were only about an hour long. Houle stated he himself didn’t get involved in council for payment and feels Big Valley’s volunteer spirit means local residents probably aren’t going to be happy about council pay increases.
German responded all pay increase suggestions were at or below the average paid to other villages and balked at the suggestion the remuneration policy should be based on a volunteer approach, stating he valued his time; German added other current and future councillors may not see themselves in the same way Houle sees himself.
The CAO noted the 2023 budget actually has room for remuneration increases if councillors wish. She also noted council pay is sometimes looked at as a validation of the serious responsibilities, such as road safety and water quality, that councillors bear.
Coun. Amber Hoogenberg stated she was leaning towards German’s view that Big Valley’s rates were too low, stating the survey data seemed fair. “There is value in what we do,” said Hoogenberg, adding councillors do a lot of work behind the scenes that most residents are unaware of.
The three councillors discussed going through each section of the remuneration policy, but after a while decided it would be best to table this issue, let councillors study all of the data available and make a decision at the December council meeting.
By Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Nov 30, 2023 at 13:14