The mayor and city councillors are making too much money, says HRM’s council compensation committee.
A newly-released report from the group—specially created by council in 2014 to study this very issue—recommends freezing salaries for elected HRM officials and instituting several changes to how that compensation is tabulated.
If approved, the recommendations will have city councillors receive an annual compensation equal to the average salary of a full-time HRM resident plus 25 percent. The mayor’s salary would be equal to 220 percent of what a councillor makes, while the deputy mayor would receive 110 percent.
According to the latest census data from Statistics Canada, the average full-time worker in HRM makes $59,174 a year.
Councillors under the proposed new formula would therefore receive a salary of roughly $74,000, while the mayor would receive $162,800 and the deputy mayor would get $81,400.
Those salaries are far below what city council is currently making. Mayor Mike Savage will earn $176,034 this year, while each city councillor will be paid $82,653. Deputy mayor Matt Whitman will earn $90,918.
“The amount currently paid to all members of council exceeds the amount under the new formula,” reads the report. To compensate, it recommends freezing salaries at their current levels until the average HRM resident’s compensation increases enough to warrant a raise.
Since 2004, HRM has been determining its elected officials’ salaries using a weighted average of compensations from other comparable Canadian municipalities plus 50 percent of the difference between that average and the highest pay levels.
The committee found that formula no longer appropriate. It relied too heavily on population data, while ensuring HRM officials were paid in the top 50 percent of comparable cities. The compensation committee “felt there was not sufficient justification” for that to continue.
The new proposed methodology uses a more apt comparison with HRM residents as opposed to other city councils, and is easier for the public to understand, says the committee.
Salaries for HRM councillors have increased by 11 percent over the last six years, far outpacing inflation and raises for other municipal workers. The mayor’s salary has increased 16 percent in the same time period.
This new report originates with a November 18, 2014 motion by councillor Steve Craig to form a committee and examine regional council’s compensation. The committee consisted of municipal auditor general Larry Munroe, along with human resource honcho Gerald Walsh, Saint Mary’s University president and finance professor Colin Dodds, McInnes Cooper partner Cheryl Hodder and Collins Barrow operations manager Amy MacIsaac.
Along with the changes to council’s salaries, the committee recommends discontinuing HRM’s pension plan for elected officials (replacing it instead with individual retirement savings plans equal to 7.5 percent of the member’s pay) and creating a “transition allowance” for councillors who either don’t re-offer or aren’t re-elected.
Severance pay for elected officials already exists in other municipalities like Charlottetown and Winnipeg. The compensation committee is advising HRM to follow that lead and allow for a severance allowance of one month’s pay for every year of public service (to a maximum of three months).
So far three HRM councillors—Gloria McCluskey, Jennifer Watts and Barry Dalrymple—have announced they won’t be re-offering in this fall’s general election.
Councillors will discuss and vote on their own pay formula at Tuesday’s meeting. You can read the full report embedded below.