New Gander council won’t reverse 2014 stipend increase
New process needed for the future: mayor
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.