Heart’s Content councillors to receive remuneration
Mayor believes councillors should be on par with other municipalities
For the first time in its incorporated history, elected leaders in Heart’s Content will soon be receiving remuneration for their services to the town.
Council endorsed the decision during budget consultations in November by a vote of 6-1, with Cumby, councillors Glenda Hiscock. Brian Firzpatrick, Mike Middlekoop, Patricia Smith and Tolson Rendell voting in favour.
Deputy Mayor Doug Piercey, who is serving his first term on council, was the lone wolf voting against remuneration.
Attempts to contact Piercey were unsuccessful.
Cumby believes it took more than four decades for the council to begin receiving remuneration because the previous council — which had former Mayor Don Blundon at the helm for the entire time — did not agree with payment for being a councillor. Cumby explained it had nothing to do with finances.
Blundon told The Compass last year when he announced his retirement from municipal politics he did not agree with remuneration.
“My own feeling is that it's a volunteer job. I'm here to help the town as much as possible. I felt that if I was getting paid for something I enjoyed doing, I didn't see the benefit. The majority of the others feel the same way,” he said.
Four members of the previous council are currently occupying council seats — Cumby, Fitzpatrick, Hiscock and Smith — and each of them voted in favour of remuneration in November.
Cumby described his reasoning for voting in favour.
“I felt if the other communities were being remunerated for the work they were doing, we should be in the same status,” Cumby explained. “When the motion was made, I had no objection to it.
“Everyday these councillors aren’t just attending meetings. In fact, the deputy mayor has been out trying to get a waterline free. He’s been out there most of the morning.”
Cumby also said councillors helped with the warming centre at the recreation centre during the blackout Jan. 4 to 6, and a councillor had been assisting with organizing clothing donations sent to the town for a family who lost their home last week to a fire.
The council is still discussing how much remuneration will be allotted, and how it will be distributed, but Cumby did explain how the group will decide.
“We are going to check around with other towns to see how much they give,” he said. “We haven’t settled on a figure yet. We’re the last community on the (Trinity) shore, I think, that hasn’t been (paying remuneration).”
Cumby added that Whitbourne — the only other Trinity shore municipality without remuneration — had recently approved it as well.
While discussing the financial toll this could have on the town, Cumby was quick to reply.
“We are not going to go beyond what other communities are paying, we’re just looking to be equivalent.”
There are two possibilities for how a council can get paid its remuneration:
• councillors can get paid a set amount for each quarter by attending at least half the council meetings; or
• each councillor can get paid a set dollar amount for each meeting attended.
The formula for determining how much a town can put towards remuneration depends on the town’s budget.
For Heart’s Content, they fall into the category of $250,000 to $499,999.
Under the remuneration and reimbursement regulations in the Municipal Act, a town with a budget that size can allot up to four per cent of the total budget towards remuneration, up to a total of $15,000 per fiscal year.
Financial position of the town
This year, the town’s budget is slightly higher than previous years, but details were not yet available on the breakdown.
Some $417,000 has been structured to form the budget. In 2012, the budget was some $350,000, but Cumby said the town is prepared for the increase.
“We are in a good financial position for the first time in a long time,” he said. “We struggled for a number of years. We might have looked at getting a loan, but things have improved. The budget and financial affairs are being managed quite well. There is a lot that still needs to change…”
One thing Cumby could say about the budget was it is the same tax structure as previous years — 8 mills.