Several suggest a review of compensation guidelines
If councillors miss regularly scheduled meetings, their salaries should reflect their absences, suggested one candidate running for a seat in St. John’s in the Sept. 24 municipal election.
“Yes. And I also support deducting the pay of councillors who do not attend meetings without good reason,” wrote Tom Badcock, who is seeking election as a councillor-at-large.
When asked whether they think councillors are paid enough, 20 of the 30 candidates running for seats on St. John’s council agreed the remuneration is fair.
Nine of the respondents to The Telegram/St. John’s Board of Trade online survey failed to give a yes or no answer, six suggested there should be a review of salaries and one was close to disagreeing.
“I think that if you look at how much time a councillor puts in each week, most likely they are not paid enough,” responded Fred Winsor, who is also looking for a councillor-at-large seat.
According to information provided by the City of St. John’s, as of July 1, 2013 the mayor is paid $108,743, the deputy mayor $50,411 and councillors $39,016.
One-third of the salaries are tax-free and up until recently councillors didn’t contribute to their pensions.
“I am pleased councillors now contribute to their benefits package and have ended their non-contributory pension scheme,” said Lionel West, a councillor-at-large candidate.
Fellow councillor-at-large candidate Derek Winsor said it’s his opinion that compensation is based on the requirements of the position.
“If the expectation of the position is presently part time, then the present rates are acceptable. If the public want to see their councillors spend full time, then a review has to take place. However, if that is the case then the taxpayers have to be prepared to increase the compensation,” Winsor replied.
Ward 5 candidate Sherwin Flight said it’s hard to know if the pay is sufficient without knowing what exactly they do.
“I think a review of council would show if councillors are paid enough, too little, or too much. It is hard to talk about the salary of a councillor without a clear view of what the job entails.”
Mayoral candidate Coun. Sheilagh O’Leary said councillors are paid enough, but it might be time to review it.
“I do believe that we might want to re-examine the job of councillor and whether it can still be classified as a part-time position” she wrote.
“As a councillor, I certainly put in hours that were full-time and more most weeks. I am very conscious that the salary for councillor is more than many people in the city make for full-time work, but I also think the compensation for the actual time commitment expected might discourage a large percentage of the population from offering themselves up for election.”
Ward 3 candidate Sarah Colborne Penney said while she wouldn’t recommend the positions be made full time she will work as if the job is.
“I will not advocate for council positions to be made full-time; nor for their salaries to be increased. Additionally, I will treat serving as a city councillor as my full-time job. I do recognize, however, that there is a discussion that could be had around the current salary level and its relationship to the city’s ability to attract candidates.”
Last week, The Telegram sent all 30 St. John’s candidates a link to an online survey to complete. A joint project of The Telegram and the board of trade, the survey polled candidates on 15 key issues. Ward 5 incumbent Wally Collins was the only one who didn’t respond.
In the coming days, The Telegram will publish stories outlining candidates’ positions on those issues.