The Municipality of Rhineland is following the lead of other Canadian municipalities in giving elected officials a raise...on paper. Council has approved a 14.3 percent increase to the annual indemnity paid out to councillors and the reeve.
The move comes on the heels of a new rule implemented by the federal government that will see one-third of an elected official's previously tax-exempt income, become taxed. As a result, a number of municipal councils across the country have adjusted their compensation packages so salaries remain close to current amounts.
"We looked at the difference and what the impact would be with respect to the changes. We did a bit of calculation on that and said it looks like this amount would be equivalent to that," explained Reeve Don Wiebe.
As it turns out, this increase also comes at little expense to Rhineland. Wiebe explains with the overall size of council reduced by one member in the fall municipal election, the overall cost for indemnities to the municipality will stay more-or-less the same as it already had been.
Meantime, Wiebe says a number of factors went into making this decision.
First, he explains Council felt the move would help to properly recognize the quality of work that is required by local elected officials.
"It takes a lot of work to understand the issues that are going on, so councils have to spend a lot of time getting themselves up to date on those files and strategically planning for the municipality. It's work that is critical to our region."
Second, Wiebe adds it will also better reflect a loss in income when municipal business takes councillors away from their jobs.
"We try to frame our council work in terms of predictable timeframes, but nevertheless people are called out and...a couple of hours can quickly disappear in your day," he explained. "If you have a full-time job these can be huge interruptions."
As a result of the 14.3 percent increase, the hourly rate paid to elected officials in the municipality went from $22.85 to $26.25 for committee meetings, and the maximum daily rate increased from $183 to $210.