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Altona town councillors are getting a pay raise.

Starting this year, the annual payment to the mayor will rise 35.9 percent, the deputy mayor will get a 31 percent hike in pay, and councillors will see their indemnities bumped up by 25.8 percent.

Many municipal councils across Canada are adjusting their indemnities now that the federal government is going to tax the full amount of their yearly municipal earnings.

However, Mayor Al Friesen says council chose to take a different direction on this issue and used this time as an opportunity to review council indemnities overall.

Losing the tax exempt status on the yearly compensation was never a part of their discussion.

"We took that out of the equation because as one councillor pointed out, everybody pays taxes on their income. So, we decided that this was just an opportunity to find out what the indemnity rates are and how we compare to others."

Town councillors compared the indemnities they were getting with the indemnities being paid to municipal officials in similar sized communities. Those communities included the towns of Beausejour, Carman, Stonewall, Swan River, Virden, Niverville, Neepawa and the Municipality of Rhineland.

"What we found was that our numbers were less than the average, so we adjusted them to the average with a decision that we would review this every two years."

The adjustment to the mayor's yearly payment jumps from $12,141 to $16,500; the deputy mayor's annual stipend will increase from $10,226 to $13,400 and councillors will get $12,000, which is up from $9,535.

Friesen points out that paying mayors and municipal councillors an indemnity is the model that is used in Manitoba and across Canada.

"I think it's a recognition that people who are at our council table run businesses or they have jobs, and we're asking them to give up some of that time ... and allocate it to their community. If you want to attract good people ... this is one way to address that."

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