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Put the salary increase to a vote

Council not consulting St. Albert citizens on move to give themselves an over 30 per cent pay raise.

Property taxes are up. So are salaries.

Did you miss the memo?

City councillors certainly didn’t. In fact, they served their own memo, and they CC’ed the rest of us--a whopping raise for council. The mayor’s near $150K salary excluded.

The self-congratulatory move means city councillor base salaries are shooting up to $86,00 per year, from $58,587 – a 32 per cent increase.

It’s been a handful of years since city council last decided they were worth more money. At the time, then-councillor Tim Osborne remarked the obvious: "Debating council remuneration is probably one of the most awkward conversations. There are not a lot of people who have the opportunity to vote on their own salary, for obvious reasons."

The reasons should be obvious but, are lost on this council. Perhaps with just over two years before we get to vote for our next council, our elected officials are banking that enough time will have passed to either forgive or forget, or both.

A 2019 city document reveals an organizational chart. The citizens, rightfully so, are at the top of the list, followed by city council and administration. Today, that org chart has city council at the top, followed by administration. There is no mention of citizens or the recognition of the property taxes paid by citizens for the services in this city.

The pay hike corresponds to the recommendations made by the Council Remuneration Review Committee, struck a couple of years ago. Former councillor Ray Watkins was part of the five-member committee. When on council he was an open advocate of increasing council remuneration. That bias went largely unnoticed and unchallenged.

In the real world, compensation is usually based on merit. Without question, some councillors give their all to the job. Others, not so much. That can be said of any elected body. The point, however, is for elected officials to actually lead. Passing a motion to increase their own pay without consideration from the very people who pay their salaries is worrisome. Taxpayers won’t be as worried about the process as infuriated at the gall.

If councillors believe their good work merits a pay increase of this magnitude, why not put it on the ballot and see whether voters agree? Their decision to vote themselves the increase now tells they already know how that would turn out.

Taxpayers have already been handed a 4.6 pr cent tax increase this year, with more to come. And the city continues to plead poverty, demanding more money from the other two levels of government. Mayor Cathy Heron is leading the charge in her role as president of Alberta Municipalities.

The demands on taxpayers will not relent. It would be refreshing to have leadership that gets it. A 32 per cent salary increase and a change to full-time status for councillors should be put to a vote on the next municipal ballot, in October, 2025. Council has wasted an opportunity to show taxpayers courtesy and leadership.