Councillor Curtis Claydon, Deputy Mayor Shane Pelletier, CAO Mitch Duval, Councillor Ron Mamchuk, and Councillor Janine Boulanger. Front: Mayor Chris Ewen.Brenda Sawatzky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published 15:20 Jun 09, 2022

By Brenda Sawatzky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

At a June 7 public meeting, the RM of Ritchot’s council was presented with the results of a formal review undertaken to assess council salaries and determine where the bar should be set for the next four-year term.

St. Adolphe resident Ron Rochon, speaking on behalf of the Ritchot Community Indemnity Committee (RCIC), made a report to council. The RCIC is an ad hoc team pulled together for the sole purpose of determining council’s base salary beginning in 2023.

After much review, the RCIC has resolved that a substantial salary increase is due for both councillors and the mayor. Following the presentation, council voted unanimously to accept first reading for the proposed salary adjustments.

The RCIC was comprised of six members, including one resident from each Ritchot ward. There was also one business/land owner and one former council member, although that council member may not have been from Ritchot.

At the end of their analysis, the RCIC agreed that increases should be proposed on both the monthly indemnities and hourly salaries paid to councillors and the mayor going forward. From these new base rates, regular cost of living adjustments could be made in each of the three years to follow.

Rochon told council that this amounted to about a 10 percent increase.

Under this proposal, as of January 1, 2023, the monthly indemnity paid to each councillor would increase from the current $1,895 to $2,286. The mayor would also see an increase from the current $3,365 to $3981.50.

At the outset, these figures suggest more like an 18 percent increase for the mayor and an almost 21 percent increase for each councillor.

Rochon explains how the RCIC came to these dollar figures.

Until now, salaries have been calculated based on the monthly indemnity plus an additional hourly salary for every meeting council members attend, including those that were a part of their regular monthly routine.

Under the new system, meetings that the RCIC deems a part of the essential role of a council member will shift to indemnity pay. These include monthly planning, public works, and council meetings as well as less frequent sessions held with various RM departments or in regard to finance and personnel.

Rochon says that the extra pay above and beyond the 10 percent increase he reported at the public meeting is a result of factoring in the amount of time council members invest in essential meetings, which he says adds up to about eight hours per member per month.

In addition to the monthly indemnity, the hourly salary for mayor and councillors will also see a significant rise. The councillors’ hourly rate will jump from $23.37 to $30 and the mayor will go from $26.75 to $35 per hour. That equals an almost 31 percent increase for the mayor and just over a 28 percent increase for each councillor.

This hourly rate will be applicable to meetings, conferences, and meetups which are extraneous to the regular duties of a council member.

“The new 2023 rates, from what was said by the committee delegate, is a reflection on what [the RCIC] expect from a council, what the ratepayer expects from a council, and the ability to subsidize the lost hours, vacation days, and regular workdays from a councillor or mayor’s regular career,” says Ritchot Mayor Chris Ewen.

The RCIC also considered other areas of remuneration, such as mileage, which the review team agreed should continue to be adjusted according to the National Joint Council rate.

Meals while out of town on council business will be covered based on receipts submitted and the technology allowance will remain the same at $100 per month.

“I view this more as an adjustment to keep up with the cost of living than a salary hike,” says Councillor Curtis Claydon. “There were no adjustments made to mileage for council and we are now seeing fuel prices more than doubling, including the cost of vehicles and maintenance.”

According to Rochon, the RCIC’s primary resource in determining the new rates was the use of 2021 comparative data attained from other neighbouring councils.

When spread out over a one-year period, Ritchot’s new monthly indemnity for the mayor will climb from $40,380 to $47,778 plus hourly and go from $22,740 to $27,432 plus hourly for councillors.

For comparison, The Citizen reached out to the Town of Niverville and the RM of Tache to learn their 2022 indemnity salaries for members of council. Both of those municipalities pay their members of council less, even before Ritchot’s proposed increases.

In Niverville, the mayor receives an annual indemnity of $26,000, the deputy mayor collects $19,000, and $17,000 is paid to each council member. In lieu of hourly wages for meeting attendance beyond the essentials, a nominal lump sum is paid out when attendance at an out-of-town meeting is required.

Similar to Ritchot, the RM of Tache provides their council members with both a monthly indemnity and hourly salary for special meetings that are extraneous to council’s regular duties. The Tache mayor’s annual indemnity amounts to $27,807 while the council members receive $19,642. Both the mayor and councillors are eligible for an additional $23.40 in hourly salary.

It should be noted that there are a number of variables that come into play when determining what a council salary should look like, and those include the size of the municipality and the taxbase rate.

In light of an upcoming election, though, Rochon says that the RCIC determined that a fair compensation package needs to be offered if quality people are to be attracted to run for these positions.

“One of the things that was unanimously [agreed upon] was that we all see council as a valued group of people that we need strong support and representation from,” Rochon concludes.

Mayor Ewen says that council made the decision a number of years back to have an independent committee assess council salaries every term. This is the first time that the RCIC opted to make an open presentation to council, providing detailed commentary on their decision.

The mayor welcomes any residents of Ritchot to reach out to the RM office to have their names added to the list for RCIC membership duties in the future.

This item reprinted with permission from Niverville Citizen, Niverville, Manitoba