Original Published 00:24 Mar 29, 2022

By Jennifer Argue, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

RM doesn’t respond to requests to release CAO’s report despite being required under Section 117 of the Municipalities Act. The Regina District Association of Rm’s (RDARM) releases detailed comparison info by municipality. Several RMs, including McKillop, didn’t provide information for the survey.

The RM of McKillop’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Brandi Morissette made a business case for fewer meetings after the RM came under fire when a Facebook page, critical of the RM, posted the remuneration costs. Morissette suggested that fewer meetings would give the administration time to complete tasks between the meetings and provide the best information.

Morissette‘s report detailed costs and the number of meetings over the last several years. In 2018 the total council remuneration was $55,451 with twenty regular, eighteen special, and one committee meeting. She noted the bylaw in place at the time called for one regular meeting per month and additional meetings when required.

When Morissette started reporting the 2019 remuneration of $91,838, Reeve Bob Schmidt interrupted her saying “that is not accurate.” He asked, “do you know what’s included in remuneration?” the CAO responded, “yes.” Schmidt listed mileage, meals, cell phone, training, laptop. Councillor Dixon also took issue with the numbers. “To do a comparison is not legit.” Dixon explained there are changes year to year, such as the number of conventions and rate changes that would explain the difference. The CAO agreed and said to look at the number of meetings, not the cost. Reeve Bob Schmidt responded – “well you have that wrong.” The CAO threw her hands up and said,

“well then, I guess you should have done it.”

Reeve Schmidt, appearing to refer to the McKillop Taxpayer Network Facebook page, which recently put out information on the RM’s council remuneration, said – “Right now there has been a lot of nonsense posted on one Facebook page.” Schmidt said people had inundated him asking if it’s accurate.

He took issue with how people perceive the information, saying that people think their work is the same as the previous councils. He said their work is not “caretaker work” with set hours. Schmidt commented on one of his long-standing grievances with the previous council, “well, it could be caretaker work because we had to clean up a big mess from previous councils in ‘18.”

Schmidt also defended the difference in meeting numbers – saying the Council has built the reserve accounts up, is getting money back and getting “things all straight.” He noted while people are saying they are spending more money, they have been reducing the amount of money they have spent since 2019. And that remuneration instead has decreased. He acknowledged the need to reduce the number of meetings and only hold a second if needed. “Don’t get me wrong, we have to do something different with our meeting.”

While Councillors Dixon and Labatte said they prefer scheduled meetings as they are busy, Dixon and Whitrow suggested having a regular meeting every 21 days with the second meeting at the hourly rate of $35 with one hour of prep time instead of the flat $250 rate. Dixon noted the substantial prep time that is taken reading through the documentation before the meeting.

Reeve Schmidt said that Council is all retired and semi-retired, and the RM set the rates to attract younger working people to Council. He noted the RM hadn’t raised remuneration rates in 3 years. He said some RM’s charge more at $275 per meeting with no time limits, so they receive the rate even if they meet for ½ hour. Councillor Marilyn Labatte noted that the RM of 219 Longlaketon charges $125 per committee meeting.

We checked with McKillop’s neighbour – the RM of Longlaketon, about their remuneration rates. Reeve Ray Wilde said being on Council is a public service and not a way to make money. He said they have had the same rates for approximately five years. Their rate for regular and committee meetings are – all-day meetings are $240, half-day meetings are $120, mileage is .58 cents per km, supervision rates are $35/hour. Supervision rates include checking roads and when the Reeve needs to work with Public Works on a matter.

Councillor Whitrow has been a proponent of attracting younger people to the Council. He has suggested several times that moving to evening meetings may achieve this. He noted other RMs hold their meetings in the evening. The Reeve added that the RM of Lumsden holds one meeting in the afternoon and one in the evening every month.

Councillor Dixon asked if they needed to have an admin committee any longer. The CAO said that many items had been dealt with since she came to the RM, and she felt they could now reduce the number of meetings. All the Council is also on the admin committee, so the CAO proposed moving the admin items to the regular meetings. Recommendations go to the same group of people for the decisions.

While the Reeve said that the RM has “waned” away from committee meetings, it recently added a new committee and is selecting members.

RADARMS survey report shows a wide range of charges for council remuneration from $125 a day at the low end and $300 at the high end. Many RMs are around the $250 range, putting the RM in line with other RMs.

For the RM to make the changes, it requires a change to the council procedures bylaw. There will be public notice with the first reading at the April 12th meeting. After that, they plan to start the new 21-day schedule from there.

LMT asked during the open session if the CAO could finish giving out the stats she compiled. Morissette said she would unlock the document on the agenda so people could view it. As of publication, the information has yet to be made available on the RM’s website, and the RM has yet to respond to our requests to provide the report.

This item reprinted with permission from The Last Mountain Times, Nokomis, Saskatchewan