Council member remuneration on the table – citizen’s committee will determine what pay rate should be for next term.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  March 5, 2012. Now that they have said they will pocket that “massive” pay increase – a miserable 1.5%,  your Significant Seven have buried themselves for half a day over at the Performing Arts Centre to focus on leadership and team decision-making case studies.

IF they are returned to office next municipal election they will each earn 1.5% more than they are earning now. But there is little certainty that all will be re-elected. Two might not choose to run again and two are on less than solid ground.

Good idea to meet at the PAC – they own the place and they just might have to evict their tenant if they can’t come up with a Business Plan that meets the needs of the council members who have to roll with the ire of their constituents over the revenue problems at the PAC

The Monday meeting at the PAC is one of the Quarterly Governance meetings – something this Council put in place when it got itself organized back in 2010.  It was a good idea then and it has become a very good idea now that there is a city manager who keeps reminding his employers that there is serious work to do on the governance side.

During the budget debates it became clear that there was serious discord with the Boards and the office of the city manager.  Jeff Fielding has to come up with the money the boards ask for, but appears to have little in the way of input with the boards as they put together their budgets.

Carrie Brooks- Joiner, former chair of the Library board,  told a council committee during a budget delegation that she was offended with the procedures followed in the creation and presentation of the libraries funding requirements.  City Manager Jeff Fielding agreed that there had been some communications problems.  Expect this problem to get resolved before the next budget comes up.

The Boards, Economic Development Corporation, the Library Board, the Burlington Art Centre and the Performing Arts Centre along with the Museum Board eat up a significant amount of the tax revenue. Combined they consume $12 million + in taxpayer money.  The city manager would like to get a little closer to the way those funding requests are put together.

BurlingtonGreen gets funding as does the Sound of Music.  The Seniors’ Centre also gets funding as does the Burlington Teen Tour Band.

These are services the city provides and which most residents want to see in place,  but if it means a tax hike – well maybe the interest won’t be as high?  None of them generate revenue for the city and each has its own independent fund raising programs plus various fees and admission prices they might levy.

Our Burlington knew of the Monday Governance meeting and was preparing to attend when we learned it was a closed session which is permitted under the Municipal Act.  “The purpose of this meeting” said the notice on the city website “is for education and training and will be closed to the public in accordance with Sec. 239 (3.1) of the Municipal Act.”

The decision to close a meeting, as we understand it after talking to City Clerk Angela Morgan, is something the she can advise Council it can or cannot do.

The first part of the full  day session is to focus on leadership and team decision-making case studies that will be led by Gerard Seijts, Associate Professor, Ivey School of Business.

The afternoon Session focused on the way Council makes decisions.  It was facilitated by Linda Moore and Brad Quinn, a team that has done a lot of work with the city in the past.

The question that one wants to ask is:  Should the public have an opportunity to listen in on how city Council and senior staff go about making their decisions?     Is this meeting similar to the Pre-meets Burlington holds where decisions are made as to who will say what and when at council and council committee meetings?

It gets a little dodgy when the people who are spending public money want to close the doors and talk privately.  That isn’t to suggest for a moment that this Council is deliberate in wanting to keep information from the public but, the Mayor of this city has in the past decided,  on his own,  to not send media releases to Our Burlington because he didn’t like what we were saying.  He can do that if he wishes.  He did reverse the decision a day later.

There was a time when a very popular Mayor, Roly Bird, refused to talk to the reporter from the Spectator.  Politicians can do whatever they like – the one thing they must do every four years is face the people who put up the money that pays them to run the city.

During the budget debates the Budget and Corporate Services committee agreed to an increase of 1.5 percent in the remuneration for council members.  That increase however does not come into play until the next term of Council.

At the same meeting council decided to reconvene the Citizen Committee to review Council’s Compensation, Expense Limits and Staffing requirements.

The mandate of the committee would be to:

Set out recommendations for council member compensation.

What should be given in terms of expense allowances

What do they need in terms of staff and technical support.

Other matters including workload distribution and severance.

The committee will report to the Budget and Corporate Services Committee by October, 2013

The mandate sets out who is to be on that committee:  There are to be seven members on the committee with representation from the city’s bankers; someone from a local board; someone from one of the city advisory boards;  someone from the Chamber of Commerce; someone from community social services organization plus two Burlington resident – one each from north and south of the QEW.

People who served on the last committee that met in 2009 will be polled to see if they are interested in returning.  The city would like to see three or four of them return to provide continuity.

The city currently pays the Mayor $123,831 and gave him an expense allowance of $19,953.  The Mayor has in the past not spent all of his expense allocation.

Council members are paid a base of $53,214 and have an expense allowance of $9,000   Both the Mayor and Council members are paid by the Region for the time they spend there –  $ 45,827.  In addition Regional Councillors have an expense allowance of $5,130 per term.

The Mayor is also paid for meetings of the Hydro Board he attends as well as Hydro Committee meetings. He attends those meetings as Mayor; accepting payment is really “double dipping”.

During the beginning of this term of Council there were several deferrals of pay increases that had been approved by the Citizen’s Committee which was council reacting to public criticism.  Ideally the Citizen’s Committee will set the remuneration up in such a way that Council cannot defer

The Citizen’s Committee will, hopefully make use of the Citizen’s engagement Charter and meet with the public in each ward, without the presence of council members and explain the rationale behind their decision and then each year publish a public notice declaring that the raise in pay, if there is one, was determined by citizens.

Last time around council members didn’t have the courage to stand up behind the Citizen’s recommendation – they saw it as self-serving.  Spare them the opportunity to make themselves look both foolish and a little childish.

Most of these men and woman who you elected work hard.  If we want intelligent, educated people to lead us then we have to pay them accordingly.  You do get what you pay for.


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1 comment to Council member remuneration on the table – citizen’s committee will determine what pay rate should be for next term.

  • Joan Gallagher-Bell

    I have been reading with great interest your posts. Please keep the information coming. Burlington residents are not mushrooms and need enlightenment fast in order not to repeat the same mistakes.
    My prayer is that the entire Council needs a great wake up call. Yes perhaps some more than others.
    In these economic times with seniors struggling in Burlington forthe Council to entertain any increase in their already over paid monies is a crime.
    During the last two terms of council we have lost many key staff persons. This needs to stop. There is always fear in electing a new council but could residents of Burlington have it any worse than now?
    Approximately 2 yrs ago I attended a Budget Workshop at Burlington Art Centre. The politicos I sat with wanted the increase levy to tax payers for Hospital to be paid in a few years but quite agreed that the levy would continue because of increase demands. Now Council is requesting an additional increase in salaries. If my memory serves they had an increase at the start of the term.
    One request please send out information that can be distributed to fellow Burlington residents to give them the privilege to follow your online news. I forward to many that I know there is interest from seniors because they aren’t mushrooms!
    Thank you for the truth! God Bless…………Joan

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