Steinbach city council unanimously agreed Tuesday to up its pay to compensate for the loss of a federal tax perk. Until this year, one-third of the pay to members of municipal councils in Canada was tax-free. The federal government has removed that break starting next year, something that would have cost each Steinbach city councillor about $2,500 per year in take-home pay and the mayor about $5,000.
Councillor Jac Siemens moved that city council remuneration be increased so that the net amount stays the same
"This is one of the ticklish things that we deal with as a council, we deal with our own wages. And we do need to put compensation levels in place that will attract people who have a business mindset, who are willing to put their name forward and stand behind their beliefs. You do need to compensate for that. If you look at the wages of many of the councils across the country, we are in the mid to lower range and that's where we've always been."
Deputy Mayor Michael Zwaagstra seconded the motion. He says, unfortunately, this is a federal offload onto local taxpayers but believes it is necessary for net pay to stay the same.
"When you have a pay scale that is specifically geared around the existing tax structure, the salary schedules are set specifically taking that partial tax exemption into account. When you remove that tax exemption, that changes what the actual take home pay is. At the end of the day, we thought it was appropriate to adjust it (the pay) to reflect what the intent of the pay scale has been all along in terms of what the take-home pay actually is."
Mayor Earl Funk adds it is important that the net pay of council members be maintained.
"We have to remember that the job we do for the city has value and we have to make sure that that value stays there. If we erode what we make at the city, then it makes it harder and harder to get quality people to run for council."
The change will cost the city about $30,000 per year. The mayor will now earn $51,897 per year, the deputy mayor $24,220 and councillors $21,390.