A Look at the Detailed Breakdown of Proposed Cobourg Council Remuneration Increase Over Three Years

In City Hall, Editor Choice

By Jeff Gard/Today’s Northumberland

Today’s Northumberland asked Town of Cobourg staff for the detailed breakdown of the proposed council remuneration increases from the motion that passed during the budget review meeting last week.

At the Feb. 6 regular council meeting, resident Bryan Lambert made a last-minute presentation calling for a 43% raise for Mayor Lucas Cleveland (his salary rising to $65,000 from $45,412), a 67% raise for Deputy Mayor Nicole Beatty (going to $52,000 from $31,082) and a 75% raise for each of the remaining five councillors (going to $45,500 from $25,963) – plus benefits.

Lambert suggested the raise to take effect April 1. For the nine months remaining in 2023, that would have added $103,643 to the tax levy. For a 12-month period, it would add $138,790.

Mayor Cleveland brought it to the floor during the next day’s budget review meeting, but returned Thursday when the meeting continued with a revamped idea and motion to take stress off the tax levy, which was already at a 5.5 per cent increase based on the draft budget. He suggested that increased remuneration be phased in over two years.

Council passed the motion with a 4-3 recorded vote. The mayor along with Councillors Adam Bureau, Miriam Mutton and Randy Barber voted in favour while Deputy Mayor Nicole Beatty and Councillors Brian Darling and Aaron Burchat were in opposition.

As previously reported by Today’s Northumberland, only $20,115 plus benefits was added to the tax levy, above the draft budget, for 2023 with that motion.

At the end of the Feb. 9 budget review meeting, Cobourg council unanimously supported a motion to approve the 2023 Capital Budget in the amount of $32,998,716 and the 2023 Operating Budget with the Municipal Levy of $28,154,601 which represents a 8.1% increase over the 2022 Operating Budget and a 6.6% net increase after allowing for New Assessment Growth of 1.5%.

The budget requires final approval at the next regular council meeting Feb. 27.

Mayor Cleveland, in defence of the proposed remuneration increase, has constantly stressed that number – $20,000 for seven people this year – noting the full amount of more than $138,000 wouldn’t be felt on the town’s budget until 2025.

Responding to comments on Today’s Northumberland’s Facebook page (from the video interview “Cobourg mayor speaks with Today’s Northumberland regarding budget”), Mayor Cleveland wrote in response to one comment, “the financial greediness of $20,110 spread over 7 people over a year period in 2023? If the next incremental raise was passed, it would only add another 45k to the budget in 2024, split between 7 people with the majority of the money going to councillors and to the deputy.”

Today’s Northumberland contacted town staff to get the breakdown in an attempt to clarify the debate.

According to the document provided by town staff, the seven members of council will receive a combined total raise this year of $34,557. There was already $14,442 in the draft budget for an annual Consumer Price Index increase. The total amount added to the 2023 budget over the initial draft is $21,315 ($20,115 salary plus $1,200 for Canadian Pension Plan) from the remuneration motion passed, but the total for the raise for the seven council members combined is the more than $34,000. The total cost for 2023 salaries will be $240,866 up from $206,309 in 2022.

In 2023, the mayor’s salary is $22,706 from Jan. 1 to June 30 and increases to $27,603 from July 1 to Dec. 31 for a total of $50,309, up from $45,412; the deputy mayor’s salary increase is $15,541 from Jan. 1 to June 30 and increases to $20,771 from July 1 to Dec. 31 for a total of $36,312, up from $31,082; and the five councillors will receive a total increase of $64,915 ($12,983 each) from Jan. 1 to June 30 and increases to $89,330 ($17,866 each) from July 1 to Dec. 31 for a total of $154,245 ($30,849 each), up from $129,815 ($25,963 each).

As per the motion, the remainder of the remuneration increase suggested is to be included in the 2024 budget and take effect July 1, 2024 in lieu of the traditional Consumer Price Index raise. Since it doesn’t take effect until midway through the year, the full remuneration increase won’t be on the tax levy until 2025.

In 2024, another $73,199 will be added to the budget tax levy including a salary increase of $69,088 plus $4,111 for CPP. The total cost for 2024 salaries will be $309,954, up from $240,866 in 2023.

The mayor’s salary will be $27,603 from Jan. 1 to June 30, 2024 and increases to $32,500 from July 1 to Dec. 31, 2024 for a total of $60,103, up from $50,309; the deputy mayor’s salary is $20,771 from Jan. 1 to June 30, 2024 and increases to $26,000 from July 1 to Dec. 31, 2024 for a total of $46,771, up from $36,312; and the five councillors will receive a total of $89,330 ($17,866 each) from Jan. 1 to June 30, 2024 and increases to $113,750 ($22,750 each) from July 1 to Dec. 31, 2024 for a total of $203,080 ($40,616 each), up from $154,245 ($30,849 each).

The full salary increase will be in full effect from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2025 with the mayor earning $65,000, the deputy mayor $52,000 and the five councillors $227,500 ($45,500 each).

That will add another $36,601 ($34,546 salary increase plus $2,055 for CPP) to the 2025 budget tax levy. The total cost for 2025 salaries will be $344,500, up from $309,954 in 2024.

There won’t be a vote every year during the budget process to approve the new increased amount.

According to the information from staff, the Town of Cobourg has always had a Council Remuneration By-law in place, distinct and approved separately from the budget. The current By-law in place indicates an annual increase implemented on July 1, based on the previous 12-month increase in the Consumer Price Index.

A motion was passed to amend the current Council Remuneration By-law during the 2023 budget deliberations, which prompted staff to prepare a new By-law that will be on the agenda for approval at the Feb. 27 regular council meeting. If council approves the proposed Remuneration By-law for the phased increases over three years, it will replace the current Remuneration By-law.

In accordance with the proposed Remuneration By-law, council salaries would remain at the final proposed increase, which will be reached in July of 2024, until such time as a new Remuneration By-law is proposed and approved.

During each year’s budget deliberations, the information from staff notes, council does not need to vote on the approved Council Remuneration as the By-law is independent of the budget. Staff use the approved By-law to indicate each year’s rate in the budget sheets.

Staff note, though, that at any time during the current four-year term, council can bring a motion to the floor to amend the existing By-law.

Mayor Cleveland has voiced his criticism of the wages for the positions of mayor, deputy mayor and councillor in Cobourg and believes the higher salaries will create an opportunity for more citizens to run for council in the future while being able to live with a fair wage and hold the position.

In addition to council salaries in Cobourg, whoever is in the Cobourg mayor’s seat – occupied this term by Cleveland – also represents the municipality on Northumberland County council along with the mayors of Port Hope, Hamilton Township, Alnwick/Haldimand Township, Cramahe Township, Brighton and Trent Hills.

With the increased responsibility on top of their respective municipal duties, five County councillors, including Cleveland this year, receive remuneration of $22,478.15 for 2023 while the warden receives $55,279.67 and the deputy warden $26,974.71. Elections for warden and deputy warden are held on an annual basis among the seven County councillors.

County council salaries are adjusted annually on Dec. 1 for cost of living, based on the Dec. 1 Consumer Price Index for Ontario.

Members of County council also receive remuneration on a per meeting basis at a rate of $100 for standing, ad-hoc and advisory committee/board meetings. There is no additional remuneration for attending regular County council meetings. Council members are also reimbursed for mileage accumulated to attend those meetings, including regular council meetings.

– with files from Cecilia Nasmith

Jeff Gard
Author: Jeff Gard

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