Pay cut for Sackville’s mayor and councillors

Councillor Allison Butcher

Sackville’s mayor, deputy mayor and town councillors will each start losing hundreds if not thousands of dollars on January 1st when the federal government starts taxing their full municipal salaries.

“The federal government is giving us a pay cut, which really stinks,” Councillor Allison Butcher said at last Monday’s town council meeting.

She was referring to the federal government scrapping a policy that has been in effect since 1953 allowing municipal and provincial office holders to escape paying taxes on up to a third of their salaries.

The tax-free allowances covered work-related expenses that did not have to be accounted for. But the federal government says the perk for municipal and provincial politicians isn’t fair to other taxpayers who do not qualify for such tax-free allowances.

Sackville allowances

In Sackville, the mayor receives $4,794.92 as a tax-free allowance on top of his annual salary of $9,589.84 for a total of $14,384.76, while the deputy mayor gets $2,838.42 tax free in addition to $5,676.84, for a total of $8,515.26.

Sackville councillors receive $2,518.62 tax free in addition to their annual salaries of $5,037.24, for a total of $7,555.86.

To see total council pay, benefits, expense allowances and expense claims, click here and here.

Butcher, who is a director and teacher at a non-profit children’s play school, said the new tax policy will make a difference to her. (Her tax bill is likely to rise by several hundred dollars.)

However, she added that after raising municipal taxes earlier this year, councillors can’t justify claiming more money for themselves to cover their higher income tax bills.

“It stinks that it will mean a bit of a difference for us, but I can’t in good faith suggest to the taxpayers, who are now paying more this year, that they should pay me more,” she said.

Cost implications

Treasurer Mike Beal told council that it could cost the town up to $16,000 to make up the difference so that councillors would not take a pay cut.

He said it’s been over 10 years since Sackville’s municipal politicians received a major raise, although he noted that their salaries are adjusted every year to cover 90 per cent of the cost of inflation. He said, for example, that if the annual cost of living rises by two per cent, the mayor and councillors get raises of 1.8 per cent.

Councillor Bruce Phinney said he would like to see pay comparisons with other municipal councils including the one in Amherst, where pay rates are higher.

In 2012, politicians in Amherst approved an annual salary for the mayor of $34,580; $23,127 for the deputy mayor; and $20,438 for each of the five councillors. (The clerk was unavailable Friday, so it was not possible to ascertain this year’s exact salary figures.)

To see council salaries for the similarly sized community of Woodstock, N.B., click here and for Shediac, click here.

Fewer councillors

Councillor Andrew Black noted that Amherst has fewer councillors than Sackville.

“They operate with six councillors,” he said. “I think an easy way for us to do this is go from eight to six and then take the pay from the other two councillors and spread it out among six.”

Councillor Bill Evans

Councillor Bill Evans described the tax-free allowance as a loophole that the federal government is closing to raise more revenue to pay for programs that benefit all Canadians.

“I think that we are well compensated,” Evans added, referring to the health, dental and life insurance that members of council get.

“Nobody wants to pay more taxes, everybody wants to get more pay,” Evans said, adding, it’s “a pretty clear conflict of interest” for councillors to give themselves more pay.

“I think we do our bit like every other taxpayer and pay our taxes,” he said.

In the end, Mayor Higham said it seemed to him that there was no support on council for an immediate raise to compensate for the pay cut, but that town staff could gather figures to determine how Sackville’s pay scales compare with other municipalities.

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7 Responses to Pay cut for Sackville’s mayor and councillors

  1. Bill Evans is comfortable and doesn’t need the money .. but he likes the influence he wields.. he’d be happy to work for nothing truth be told.. isn’t he also part of the gossipy collective at “Sackville Community Concerns” on facebook.. I think he is .. I have no use for his brand of technocracy… also, #taxation is theft.

  2. Rima Azar says:

    I am sorry to read this. Actually, I did not know about this federal law of 1953… Funny as I even forgot that our provincial/municipal politicians pay federal taxes like us :).

    Seriously, although I understand the noble rationale of the federal government, I believe that our politicians should be paid WELL because they work long hours, often on tough files or tasks. I personally do not mind even if they could still benefit from the federal tax exemption. However, ideally (for them and to be fair to all citizens), they deserve a good basic salary (+ even a small bonus after demonstrated good performance at milestones. Why not?); this in addition to any social or medical advantages they have now.

    Yes, money does not grow on trees. However, let’s not also feel too uncomfortable by the idea of a (generous) pay for public service, if we can afford it as a society. Worst of the worst, we can perhaps eventually move to fewer councilors as suggested BUT with high enough salaries. Hopefully, higher salaries can attract new blood (younger folks?) into public service.

  3. David Bailie says:

    I never realized how much Council members received & that there were also ‘perks’. I always assumed those who ran for Council did so to serve their Community & just received a small stipend for their time. I can’t believe any one would stand for Council just for the salary & perks so I can’t see that the Federal Government closing this ‘loop hole’ would make that much difference to our Councillors. Therefore I would have to agree with Mr. Evans & would not support a pay raise for Council to make up for this new tax change.
    As for the Amherst Councillors making more; Amherst, being a larger community, would have a much larger tax base from which more could be paid to the 6 sitting Councillors . Would Sackville really want to reduce the number of Councillors just so more could be paid to a fewer number ? I can’t believe that people would want this.

  4. Louis says:

    It seems to me that to PROPERLY do the job of Councillor requires quite a time commitment.

    I’d like to have quality people doing it regardless of their finances, and not have individual finances limit the ability to engage in public life. That means pay commensurate with time expectations – not to the point that people do it strictly for the money, but to the point that people don’t NOT do it because of the financial loss. As things stand now, to do the job, one has to either: (a) do it badly, (b) have free time and not too many other commitments, (c) other reasons that make it indirectly worthwhile or (d) a great sense of public duty for which one is willing to effectively take a financial hit from not earning elsewhere. Effectively, that serves to discourage the participation of many efficient, honest people, while encouraging the participation of apparatchiks with ulterior motives or those with low motivation to be effective.

    This combines with elections where one is looking at choosing 2/3 of the candidates, because there aren’t that many candidates, and even fewer quality candidates, running – probably in good part for the reasons above.

    I’m all in favour of lowering the number of Councillors by about 1/3, and raising the pay commensurately. That would be a win at both ends. As far as I’m concerned, I’d go even farther, to 1/2 and double.

    Spending 10% less money on vanity plaques and lawyers would probably also free up enough resources to achieve the same goal, without lowering the overall number of Councillors, and would be a start, but the true benefit would come from combining both.

    It’s funny how Council has money to waste on so many things, but not on improving its own quality. I’m forced to conclude that some must view low pay as a way to discourage participation by those better qualified.

  5. Christian Corbet, PPCPA, CGAM, FIDEM, FA, FRSA says:

    In light of all that is needed to be done for this community and what is not being successfully achieved I feel this cut is a decent reflection of how our government is reacting to their positions and further their lack of accomplishments.

    • The staff of the giant palace townhall have no real legacy since sliding into their luxury digs in 2012 … they’re grown staff so far … that’s why I promote a super sexy concrete skatepark for the region .. the youth don’t need to be ‘socially engineered’ .. they just want to play. Seems like I’m screaming into the void which this current crop in charge though.. eight town councillors is far too many .. and a mayor with ‘bias’ is especially worrying to me .. I don’t want a ‘boomer consultant’ in charge.

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