Ten of the 14 County Councillors for the County of Essex voted to adopt a P60 – or model where 60% of the wage rates in comparator organizations are below and 40% are above – to determine Council pay.

This formula will also provide a “temperature check” at least once per term to ensure pay is following that P60 model through a market review. In between those years, the pay will be adjusted, based on appropriate inflation adjustments that were approved for the non-union group.

This adjustment will increase County Councillor’s annual salary base from $13,211.65 to $31,302 per year; a 137% salary hike or additional $18,000.

While the Warden position will not see an increase from where it sits at $92,987, as it was in pace with other municipalities, the Deputy Warden position will also be raised from $16,164 to $40,938 a year.

This will be retroactive to January 1 of this year.

That P60 Model was adopted for non-union County staff salary earlier this year.

Since the $292,056 shortfall was not budgeted, it will come from the Rate Stabilization Reserve. In 2025, the budget will capture the full wages.This vote took place at the June 5 Essex County Council meeting, after County Councillors heard the report from Marianne Love of ML Consulting, which was obtained to conduct an investigation on the matter.

In December, Essex County Council deferred adopting its new Procedure By-Law, which provides rules governing the order and proceedings of the Council of the Corporation of the County of Essex, committees, and local boards, as there were many comments across the table regarding Council remuneration.

In January, Administration was directed to move ahead with a Council Remuneration Market Review, by selecting a consultant in accordance with the Corporation’s Procurement Policy for services valued under $10,000. It also then adopted procedure By-law, to provide rules governing the order and proceedings of the Council of the Corporation of the County of Essex, Committee, and local boards.

As part of the overall motion last week, County Council voted to remove County Council remuneration from the Procedural By-Law and make it its own By-Law, which will add to transparency.

Love commented that the primary observation coming out of the review was that the formula the County of Essex uses to determine County Council pay was “unique.”Most municipalities in Ontario calculate that through some market comparison and are not tied to an average at the local-level.

The County Council pay formula was developed by the Essex County Council Remuneration Advisory Committee (ECCRAC) in 2008. This Committee was comprised of seven citizens.Based on consultations with County Councillors over 15-years ago on how much time they put into County matters compared to municipal duties, the ECCRAC developed a formula-based approach to calculating County Council salaries and meeting stipends.

The Warden’s Base Salary was calculated on the average Essex County Mayor’s base salary, multiplied by two. The Deputy Warden’s base salary was based on the average Essex County Deputy Mayor’s base salary, and divided in half, and County Councillors’ base salary was based on the average local Councillors’ base salary, and divided in half.

They are updated twice during the Term of Council to reflect any increases Councils receive in remuneration from their local municipalities.

Through her study, Love recommended the pay for committee, agency, and board meetings remain the same at $110.77, based on her research. $166.16 meeting per diem is provided for the Chairperson.

She also recommended there be no changes to existing benefits for Councillors. According to her report, the Warden is eligible for enrollment in the County’s health, dental and extended health benefits program (premiums paid by the County), provided the Warden is not receiving benefits from another employer or local municipality. There is no participation in the OMERS pension plan or an RRSP.Of those opposed to the funding the increase were Amherstburg Mayor Michael Prue and Deputy Mayor Chris Gibb, LaSalle Deputy Mayor Mike Akpata, and Lakeshore Deputy Mayor Kirk Walstedt.

“I cannot support this,” Prue told his colleagues around the decision-making table. “I do not believe it is in the interest of this County Council or the democratic process to do so.”He said he had been in a similar position before when he was an MPP at the Ontario legislature. 

When a raise was introduced then, he refused to accept it and instead forwarded the additional dollars to charity. He intends to do the same this time.

If the decision to make the increase was through the budget process, it would be a fairer way to do it. He did not agree with retroactive pay.

Using the P60 model, Prue added, is the right thing going forward, but it should benefit the next Term of Council. He understands this issue has not been dealt with for years.“I cannot, in all conscience, sit here and take money from reserves, this very large amount. I think the taxpayers expect more from us,” Prue said. 

Kingsville Mayor Dennis Rogers noted the pay was recommended to be retroactive to the beginning of the year as it was brought up in December and has been kicked down the road a few times before it was presented last week. 

Unfortunately, Essex Mayor Sherry Bondy said, this matter wasn’t dealt with previously. “This Council has been so underpaid.” 

She said she takes her positions at the municipal and County tables seriously, and noted she puts in full-time, or even more, hours into her roles. “For me to be sitting at the table and to be adequately compensated is the right thing to do. Putting it off is what put us in this pickle now,” she said.

Municipal reps, she added, do not have pensions, and noted Prue was speaking from a privileged position where he could donate the additional funds.

Prue responded he is not wealthy. 

Akpata looked up the wage he started at when he joined the military in 1987. He understands the time Councillors put in does not necessarily equate to the pay received. 

“I have done more for less,” he said. 

Walstedt said he struggled with this file, especially with the retroactive pay. He also believed it should be discussed during the 2025 Budget deliberations. 

Gibb said he also may have supported the raise if it was for the next Term of Council, or if a step-up model was created to gradually make the increase. 

“This bridge is just too far for me. I cannot justify pulling from reserves,” Gibb said. 

Kingsville Deputy Mayor Kim DeYong supported the motion, because originally there was talk of just doubling the pay. Instead, Council supported conducting the proper research. 

Essex Deputy Mayor Rob Shepley also voiced support, because it will now be reviewed every Term of Council preventing a large increase. 

Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara supported the amendments, however, believed pay for alternates – appointed by municipal Councils to attend County Council meetings when the Mayor or Deputy Mayor are unable to attend – should be reviewed as well. 

When those alternates are at the County Council table, he believes they have the same responsibilities as the regular position holders and should be better compensated. 

Alternates also received $110.77 per meeting. Bondy agreed that needs to be investigated. This was also passed.

By Sylene Argent, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 14, 2024 at 12:12

This item reprinted with permission from   Essex Free Press   Essex, Ontario

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