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County Council members increase their own pay by over 130%


 

A big raise for municipal representatives who sit on the Essex County council.


Last Wednesday, county council members voted in favour of giving themselves what amounts to an over 135 percent increase.


Base salary in 2023 for mayors and deputy mayors who represent the seven local municipalities was $13,211.65. Retroactive back to January, it will now be upped to $31,302. (This is above what they earn for sitting on their own local councils.)


As part of an outside consultant’s report, the position of deputy warden will increase from $16,163.54 to $40,938 while that of the warden stays basically the same going from $92,896.86 to $92,987.


“For me to sit at this table and be adequately compensated is the right thing to do,” said Essex Mayor Sherry Bondy.


It was Bondy who initiated the increase back in December which prompted county administration to seek out ML Consulting which did a compensation review and comparison.


In her report, consultant Marianna Love looked at compensation from several other counties including Elgin, Lambton, Middlesex, Lennox and Addington, Oxford, Huron, Simcoe, Grey and the Region of Halton.


“The primary objective of the 2024 Council Compensation Study was to conduct a review of base pay and other compensation elements,” wrote Love in her report.


Deputy Warden Joe Bachetti, also the deputy mayor of Tecumseh, who will see a yearly pay raise of nearly $25,000 said it was good to have the data on what other counties were receiving.


“When you compare the positions, it’s not about individuals sitting around this table. It’s about doing what the position pays and what the fairness is,” said Bachetti.


Bachetti added that being a member of Essex County council requires as much time if not more than representing the local municipality.


“It’s fortunate it’s been done the right way,” said Bondy of the study. “It’s unfortunate it wasn’t done previously. This council has been so underpaid.”





Both Amherstburg Mayor Michael Prue and Deputy Mayor Chris Gibb were outspoken on the increase and Prue went as far as saying that he will be donating his increase, which is $18,090.35, to charity.


“I cannot support this. I do not believe that it’s in the interest of the county council or the democratic process to do so,” said Prue of the increase.


Prue went on to say that when he was a member of the Toronto City Council and the provincial legislature that when it came to significant pay raises, that the hike should not be immediate and that in the past he has also donated some of his compensation to charity.


“I don’t agree with the amount of money we are about to give ourselves. It’s going to be broadcast at 125 to 130 per cent increase in our wages,” said Prue.


Bondy countered by saying that it’s great that Prue can donate to charity but it is because he is in a privileged position and has a pension from being an MPP of which the Amherstburg mayor quickly disputed.


In order to satisfy the issue of retroactive pay back to January 1, the county will have to dip into its rate stabilization reserve fund for $292,056.


“I cannot sit here and take money away from reserves. I think the taxpayers expect more of us. I know we all deserve raises,” said Prue.


Gibb said that the compensation study was important and that if they were looking to phase in the increase and begin it next year, he would be in favour.


“To me, I can’t justify pulling that kind of money out of reserves to pay for an operational expense,” said Gibb.


Lakeshore Deputy Mayor Kirk Walstedt said the increase should be a budgeted item and considered for 2025.


Financial implications heading into the 2025 budget will require an increase of about $238,900 to cover the wage hike.


“I am torn by this because I understand the time we put into this does not equate to the coin the jar,” said LaSalle Deputy Mayor Michael Akpata who voted against the raises.


By Fred Groves

 

 

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