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Stratford council did some end of year housekeeping at this week’s meeting, passing a number of outstanding bylaws.
Chief amongst those was the decision to raise the pay of Festival Hydro board members.
Council had already had a rather feisty debate regarding upping the pay of those on the Festival Hydro board at its last meeting. While last night’s debate was decidedly less heated, many of the same points were addressed.
The topic of board remuneration was first brought up last night when Council was asked to adopt a report from the finance and labour relations subcommittee that called for the amendment of the bylaw stipulating the Hydro board’s rate of pay. Under the new rates, the board would receive a pay jump to $8,500 annually from $5,500; the vice-chair to $5,250 from $3,750; and the directors to $4,200 from $3,400. The new rates would be fully implemented by 2015.
McManus began the discussion by suggesting staff provide more of an overview of compensation rates, not just for the Hydro board for for other boards as well including the police services board. Her motion was defeated with only two supporting votes from councillors Paul Nickel and George Brown.
However, the topic came up again when it came time to actually amend the bylaw.
McManus warned of a “domino effect” when adjusting remuneration.
“When we look at a jump like this, we could be putting a number of things into play,” she said, adding there were capital projects that required revenue and “the money adds up …and it’s probably not going to dial back down.”
Coun. Frank Mark, who sits on the Hydro board, reminded McManus and council that the board was not compensated from the tax levy, but from the Festival Hydro corporation itself.
Nickel refuted Mark’s point by observing that, as the City of Stratford is the sole shareholder of the Hydro company, the money paid to board members is, in fact, provided by the taxpayers. He further clarified his issue was not so much with the rates paid to the chair and vice-chair, who are members of the community, but rather the remuneration paid to members of council who sit on the board.
He noted the disparity between council members on the Hydro board, who average $340 per meeting, and those on other boards who make $60 per meeting.
“I’m not sure council appointees should get that amount of money,” he said.
Coun. Tom Clifford, who also sits on the Hydro board, said members had not seen an increase in pay in 12 years, and were far below remuneration rates paid to board members in other communities.
Mayor Dan Mathieson, the third and final council member on the Hydro board, addressed the concern surrounding the police services board, which also sees high remuneration rates when compared to other committees.
“Council can discuss the rates made by (the police services board), but council does not set their pay. They do,” he clarified.
Coun. Karen Smythe suggested the board’s rates be increased in small amounts annually to avoid large spikes in pay, while Brown said he was OK with the new outside member rates, but felt rates paid to councillors warranted more discussion.
Not to be outdone, Coun. Keith Culliton stated the Hydro board rates were not ridiculous, were not high, and that members of the Hydro board are “living on starvation wages.”
Ultimately, the rates for the Hydro board’s outside members were carried, while those rates paid to council members were referred back to the finance and labour relations committee.