One year after they were elected to office, some members of London city council think they deserve a raise.
Councillors currently earn the taxable equivalent of almost $40,000, but a motion put forward by ward 10 councillor Virginia Ridley, and supported by ward 14 councillor Jared Zaifman, could have hiked that total by a significant amount.
Ultimately, no immediate action was taken with respect to Councillor pay. Instead, the issue was referred to a sub-committee for more study.
Ridley’s motion was a break from the process of determining council pay raises in the past.
It would have asked city staff to determine the average salary for councillors in cities that have a population between 300,000 and 700,000 people, and would bypass the traditional practice of having Londoners sit on a council compensation task force. Those on council who didn’t want a raise would be allowed to re-direct that money towards their expense account.
It’s unclear how much the raise for councillors would be.
“Our families are being impacted and there are people who would like to pour themselves into this position more than they currently have the capacity to do,” said Ridley.
The reality of nearly a year on the job has hit home for councillors. Some have left the jobs they had before they were elected last October while others have taken on a reduced role.
“When those outside look in, they really see us still as a small town from the past with a council that simply comes to council meetings and goes home,” said Zaifman.
The debate Monday night lasted 90 minutes, reflecting how controversial and divisive the issue can be.
Tanya Park is one of the councillors who has had to change her work life to accommodate her duties on council, but wasn’t in the mood to give herself a raise.
“I have no appetite to raise the wage of a councillor at this point, I think it’s distasteful quite honestly,” Park said.
The issue was last debated heavily two years ago by the previous council. A seven-member citizen task force recommended essentially no raise, but advocated for an end to the tax-free allowance.
One third of councillors pay is tax exempt, a caveat that the task force said most Londoners find confusing. Previous public surveys have found few in London support giving the mayor and council raises, a sentiment that ward 6 councillor Phil Squire agrees with.
“If you think it’s a full-time job in terms of you have to be sitting in an office or being somewhere 40 hours a week, I’m sorry but it’s not that kind of a job,” said Squire.
On Monday night, councillors did vote against the recommended pay tweak from the previous compensation task force. It was previously estimated making that type of change would have cost an extra $81,000.
Councillor pay varies in nearby cities that also have a one-third tax-free allowance. Councillors in Windsor take home just over $40,000, members in Kitchener make just over $38,000 (plus extra for being a member of the Waterloo Region council) while councillors in Hamilton take home over $71,000.