Frontenac County Council politicians vote themselves a 27% wage increase

Written by  Wednesday, 19 September 2018 09:53
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Rejecting a consultants report which called for their wages to more than double in order to keep up wiht wages in other Counties, Frontenac County Council raised the pay for members of Council from $9,400 to $11,900 for the new council, which takes office on December 1st. The wage for the County warden, which is currently $22,900, will go to $28,900, also a 26% increase. The Deputy Warden will receive $14,280. These increases will be topped up by cost of living (COLA) increases based on the consumer price index.

The consultant  report called for a 4-year phased in increase in compensation for members of the council.It recommended that the  salary for a member of council  jump from the current $9,400 to $19,400 by 2022, the final year of the term for the council that will take office in December of this year. The consultants also recommended that the deputy warden receive a 20% premium over the council members salary, bringing their pay to $23,200 plus COLA by 2022.

Each year one of the 4 Frontenac mayors takes a turn as Frontenac County Warden. The position comes with a parking spot in front of the county administrative offices. The consultant recommends bumping the warden's pay package that to $46,900 by 2022. 

The consultants also recommended that a process be put in place to further compensate members of council in the coming term for the provincially mandated elimination of a tax benefit for members of municipal councils. 1/3 of the compensation paid to council members has been tax free, but from now on, all of the money paid to them will be taxable. This recommendation was also rejected by the council.

Frontenac County council members also receive compensation from their role on their own township councils.

The consultant hired to complete the compensation review, Krecklo and Associates, based their recommendations on a number of counties, which are listed in the report, that they claim are comparable with Frontenac in terms of three listed factors (annual expenditures, full time employees, and number of dwellings) and came up with the recommended pay structure for politicians.

“It would be important to bring their compensation to the median (50th percentile) of the comparator group (i.e., paying the ‘going rate’) the report says.

But even in advance of the debate on the merits of the report at the council table, some members of council were skeptical about the methodology employed by Krecklo and about the proposed wage increases.

“There are counties’ on the list that are very different from Frontenac,” said John McDougall, a councilor from South Frontenac who is serving out his 8th and final year as a member of Frontenac County Council. “There are single tier municipalities included, some that are much larger than we are, and some that are responsible for roads and waste management which we don’t deal with at the Frontenac County level. I think the process we used recently in South Frontenac to come up with a proposal for council compensation, which was done by a panel of township residents, is a more realistic way to go about it.”

When contacted on Tuesday morning (September 18), Central Frontenac Mayor Frances Smith said she was still reading the Krecklo report but she found, on first glance, that the proposed compensation increases were “bizarre”.

“That being said,” she added, “the year spent as warden is a very busy year. The job does take up a lot of time.”

For his part, South Frontenac Mayor Ron Vandewal did not see much to like in the report.

“I don’t know what it is like in the elsewhere, but is way more of a responsibility being the mayor of South Frontenac than it is being the warden of Frontenac County, many times more,” he said. “If I get re-elected, I’m looking at $80,000 in pay for the year when I am the warden. As a ratepayer, I don’t want to pay for that. And how do we try to keep the county budget to a 2% increase with this money going to council compensation.”

“I think the study is way off the mark,” said North Frontenac Mayor Ron Higgins, “mainly because of the comparables that the consultants used. They did not compare apples to apples. We shouldn’t be looking at single tier counties or much more heavily populated counties at all. There are only two on the list of ten counties they looked at that are truly comparable to Frontenac County.”

Higgins said he thinks the increases called for in the first year of the “phase in” envisioned by the report, $2,500 for council members and $6,000 for the warden, “are likely about enough”

“From my analysis a $7,000 increase for the warden makes sense,” he said.

The timing of the report  also promised to have an impact on the debate at county council this week.

Because the report came to Council during an election period, the 8 people debating and, ultimately voting on the pay package, fell into three distinct groups. One group, including Councillor McDougall (South Frontenac) and Nossal (Frontenac Islands) are leaving municipal politics and will not be affected one way or another.

Another group, including Mayors Higgins (North Frontenac), Smith (Central Frontenac) and Doyle (Frontenac Islands), have been re-elected by acclamation. They were deciding their own rate of pay over the next four years, including their one year turns as warden and deputy warden.

The final group are those who may or may not be in a position to benefit from an increase, depending on how the election goes. This group includes Councillors John Inglis (North Frontenac) who has been acclaimed to his own council, but may or may not be chosen by his own council to return to the county for the next four years, if he even seeks the position at all. It also includes Central Frontenac Councillor Tom Dewey who is seeking re-election in Kennebec Ward. If Dewey is re-elected by the voters he would have to put his name forward for the role the county role and then be elected by his own council to represent them to the county.

Finally, South Frontenac Mayor Ron Vandewal is seeking re-election in a contested race with two opponents. If re-elected, Vandewal willreturn to county council for four years and walso take turns as warden and deputy warden.

Earlier this month, the salary for Mayor of South Frontenac was set at $33,621, a 9% increase. Vandewal voted against that increase, commenting afterwards “it could be interesting when staff come up for negotiation and ask for 9%.

In the debate at the county table, there was little support for the Krecklo recommendations.

Councilllor natalie Nossal did say that she "has been impressed by the effort and amount of hours put in by each of the warden's during my time on Council, and I think that should be recognised by a larger increase in wages."

Councllor John McDougall said that if people back in his home town knew he had vote for doubling the wages of conty politicans, "They would be spitting on me in the streets"

The vote for a $6,000 increase for the county warden was passed by 5 votes to 3. Mayor Vandewal voted against it. Vandewal was the only dissenting vote for the wage increase to Frontenac County Council members,  

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