New Gander coun­cil won’t re­verse 2014 stipend in­crease

New process needed for the fu­ture: mayor

The Beacon (Gander) - - Front page - BY ADAM RAN­DELL Adam.ran­dell@gan­der­bea­con.ca

A hot but­ton topic on the mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion cam­paign trail found its way into the very first pub­lic meet­ing of Gander coun­cil.

Many res­i­dents had ex­pressed con­cern about the stipend in­crease the pre­vi­ous coun­cil ap­proved in 2014, and the town re­cently re­ceived a let­ter from a res­i­dent ask­ing if coun­cil would re­verse the de­ci­sion.

At the time, the mayor re­ceived an in­crease of 44.92 per cent from $ 24,704 to $ 35,800. The deputy mayor re­ceived a raise from $18,605 to $26,350 — an in­crease of 41.63 per cent.

Coun­cil­lors were granted a 43.09 per cent raise, bring­ing their stipends from $ 17,017 to $24,350.

That brought the to­tal cost for coun­cil­lor com­pen­sa­tion to $183,900 an­nu­ally. In a le­gal sense, mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties can award stipends up to two per cent of a town’s op­er­at­ing bud­get. Cur- rent stipends for Gander are ap­prox­i­mately 1.5 per cent, ac­cord­ing to fi­nance di­rec­tor Garry Brown.

New coun­cil­lors held firm on their be­lief that the 2014 stipend in­crease could have been han­dled dif­fer­ently and with more trans­parency in­stead of ap­prov- ing one mass in­crease; how­ever, they felt com­fort­able with the es­tab­lished pay­ments.

Brian Dove and Rob Anstey, re­turn­ing coun­cil­lors from the pre­vi­ous coun­cil, de­fended the in­crease they pre­vi­ously ap­proved.

Hav­ing gone more than a decade with­out any pay­ment in­creases, they said Gander was fall­ing be­hind com­pared to how seven other larger mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties in the prov­ince were of­fer­ing wages.

“I thought it ap­pro­pri­ate that coun­cil stipends and staff wages match up with those other seven mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties,” said Dove. “I stood by that de­ci­sion then and I’m not pre­pared to re­verse the de­ci­sion now.”

Mayor Percy Far­well, who pre­vi­ously spent nu­mer­ous years on coun­cil, ob­served the 2014 in­crease as a pri­vate cit­i­zen.

He didn’t have any ob­jec­tion to the in­crease then, stat­ing he un­der­stood the ra­tio­nale of align­ing Gander coun­cil­lors with the rest of the prov­ince, and how other mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties were com­pen­sat­ing.

How­ever, he does agree a new method needs to be in place.

“I don’t nec­es­sar­ily have the an­swer… but I think coun­cil needs to have a dis­cus­sion on how best to man­age this go­ing for­ward,” said Far­well.

“At some point in our fu­ture it’s go­ing to make sense for coun­cil stipends to be in­creased again… so I think there has to be a fair, trans­par­ent process that doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily in­volve cur­rent coun­cil vot­ing on what their own raise is go­ing to be.”

In re­sponse to the res­i­dent’s ques­tion, he’s not pre­pared to scale back stipends.

“I knew what it was when I ran…I’m not go­ing to feel guilty about ac­cept­ing it,” he said.

At a re­cent meet­ing of coun­cil, newly elected mem­bers were asked if they would re­verse the 2014 stipend in­crease for coun­cil­lors – they would not.

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