As it was recently reported in the Milton Canadian Champion (sorry the online version of the article isn’t up) Milton Town Council approved a salary increase. You can find out some of the details here so I don’t have to rehash the whole argument.
It’s essentially like this. Council approved a citizen’s based committee to review salaries of town councils in surrounding areas, compare them to what we are currently being paid, and make recommendations for adjustments.
That part of the process I am ok with. It’s good that a citizens group make the decision and not a sole staff report debated by council members. I am fine with the recommendation of the increase.
What Councillor Rick Malboeuf and I endeavoured to do is to completely take it out of the hands of THIS council, and approve the report and have the new starting salary set for the 2014-2018 council at $32,120 per year (1/3 being tax free to allow for expenses, incidentals etc. seeing how we don’t have an “expense” account) and that way WE, the current 11 members of Milton Town Council do not benefit from that decision.
I’ve said from day one, politicians at all levels should be paid fairly. This job is a part time job. There are some days it feels like more with answering emails, emergency situations and high profile items that are happening – the Velodrome for instance. That goes with the job.
Before running for this position I took the time to speak with a number of current and former councillors in Milton to get an idea of what to expect. I attended council meetings long before I was elected to get an idea of the reports, which committee does what, how to deal with staff, numbers of meetings etc. I knew that some days would be busier than most.
I have been opposed to politicians at ALL levels, including federal and provincial, being able to increase their pay in the current term. I felt and still do that any increases should be effective the date the next council / session / legislature etc. sits. Seems to me to be common sense and many of you have agreed with me in the past. SOME of those who agreed with me are now sitting around the council table with me, and yet didn’t support this motion. Highly disappointing.
Since being elected I haven’t accepted a pay increase. Against the advice of many people, business associates, residents in town, fellow councillors and friends I have declined a pay increase. Granted the amounts are small, but I feel it’s more important to stand on principle. What this means is my council friends will be paid more than me. Some work a lot, some work less but that’s fine by me. I didn’t get into this for the money. If money was the only driving force in my decision to represent the taxpayers of Milton, I would have tried to find a better way to do it.
As reported in the Champion, Councillor Tony Lambert “just hours” after the decision was made to approve the pay increase and the phasing in plan (of which Mr. Lambert voted in FAVOUR of the increase and AGAINST the deferral of the increase) he emailed the town clerk to decline the increase in pay.
Interesting timing of it all as before this process started there was a thread on the Hawthorne Villager and as you will read, a majority of the comments on the topic were against the increase and in favour of the “deferral amendment” by Councillor Rick Malboeuf and me. Only after reading through a number of negative comments did he “decide” to refuse the pay increase.
My question is very simple. Why oppose the amendment and support the increase if you were only to then refuse the increase? He claimed that governments are “asking for austerity” and looking for savings.
Let’s do some math. $ 5,000 times 10 equals $ 50,000 (I’m not including the Mayors increase of $ 12,000 to keep the numbers simple) If we had deferred that $ 50,000 increase to 2014-18 council, there’s savings. For example, there is a playground at Storey Drive and McNeil in ward 6 that needs to be upgraded. The residents in the area call it the “dirty” park because the playground has sand as opposed to wood chips (which are generally much safer for kids to play on) After discussions with staff, they estimated the cost to improve that park to be roughly $ 25,000. So we could either save $ 50,000 over the next 3 years or in some cases invest it in much needed projects around town to improve the quality of life.
Now, take into consideration that if council had deferred that increase, there would be roughly $ 50,000 savings. If someone is looking at “austerity” like Mr. Lambert says he was, wouldn’t it have been more beneficial to taxpayers to vote against the increase, or at the very least vote FOR the deferral of the increase? The answer is yes.
As one of my friends said it recently, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t take credit for not accepting the pay increase while you voted in favour of it and against an amendment that would have saved taxpayers money.
Here is a link to the letter in the Champion by a resident in Milton.
He also posted the FULL unedited letter on the Hawthorne Villager as well, because he felt some key points were missed for brevity at the paper.
Here’s his unedited letter.
I was quite taken aback at the Champion article from June 28th regarding Council’s decision to grant themselves a 15% salary increase. No mention was given to the proposed and eventually failed amendment put forward by Councillor Malboeuf and seconded by Councillor Cluett. The amendment allowed the salary increase, but to become effective at the next sitting of Councillors in January 2015. As I said, they lost that 8-2. Councillor Barkley was not in attendance, another issue I have, but that’s a concern for later. And not only did the majority of Council approve the salary increase, they also voted to make the increase retroactive to January 2012. Weren’t some of these Councillors the same that ran on a campaign of ‘No voted salary increases’? Or were they not aware of the salary when they ran for the position? A 15% increase in salary after 18 months on the job is pretty absurd – and without a union backing even. And the much chastised and ridiculed American Government realized the idiocy of this issue and passed the 27th Amendment to the Constitution. Way back in 1992. We’ve still got a long way to go to catch up to 20 years ago it seems.
Councillor Lambert’s remarks that he will not accept the salary increase is nothing more than political pandering. The better political move is to not vote in favour of it in the first place. My favourite quote of the article was Councillor Hamid’s “Politicians have a job to represent the taxpayers, but I’ve never been a fan of the levels of government raising their hand to incrementally increase their salaries.” I completely agree with this statement. The only issue is, Councillor Hamid didn’t say it – Councillor Cluett did. He and Councillor Malboeuf are not receiving the credit they deserve on behalf of the taxpayers.
I believe that both Councillors are donating their newly found wealth to local charities, and I urge the others to do the same. In opposition to Councillor Lambert’s tactics, leaving the money in the Town’s coffers only allows that money to be spent on such things as Steinway pianos and Velodromes 90% of us are opposed to. This should come as no surprise to the good residents of this Town. The same Town that is sending 9 Councillors to the AMO conference in Ottawa this August. Cost to taxpayers? $22,500. Burlington’s entourage at the conference? 1 Councillor. To quote Councillor Malboeuf “the majority of this Council has demonstrated that they have not seen a tax dollar they can’t wait to spend”. I couldn’t agree more.
There was also a letter printed by Councillor Rick Malboeuf as well regarding the salary increases for council.
Despite what may have been concluded in last Thursday’s Champion article concerning town council’s decision to grant its members a 15 per cent salary increase, not all councillors supported the recommendation of the Council Compensation Committee.
Councillor Mike Cluett and I voted against increasing the salaries for councillors during this term. In fact I put forward an amendment seconded by Cluett that would have seen the increase become effective January 2015, the next term of council.
Again, only Cluett and I voted in favour of that amendment. The other eight members of council (Sharon Barkley was absent) voted to take the increase retroactive to January 2012, thereby voting themselves a 15 per cent salary increase.
My position is and always has been that councillors shouldn’t be deciding their own salaries. We all knew what the job paid when we agreed to put our names on the ballot. To now vote ourselves a 15 per cent increase 18 months into the job is in my opinion ethically and morally wrong.
As for Councillor Tony Lambert’s decision not to accept the increase after voting to do so, I considered doing the same, as I did in 1998 when the council back then voted itself an 11 per cent increase. In protest not only did I not accept the increase, I also took an additional voluntary one-third pay cut.
This time I have decided I will take the increase and then give it back to the community by donating to charities and groups that I support and feel need assistance.
I’m disappointed by council’s decision but not surprised. This is the same council that increased property taxes at twice the rate of inflation and agreed to commit millions of dollars to build a velodrome.
Councillor Rick Malboeuf, Ward 4
The letter is outlining the fact that both he and I did offer council an alternative that we felt would be better from a transparency point of view, that kept with our beleifs that elected people shouldnt be able to vote themselves an increase no matter who made the recommendation and that it was simply common sense. Many disagreed with us as it turned out.
What do you think?