The City of Kawartha Lakes will shrink the number of councillors from 16 to eight in time for the next election, locking in savings of about $109,000 annually.
That’s despite an $11,000 increase to councillors’ salaries which will rise from about $30,500 a year right now to $41,000 in the new term.
This reflects the fact that there will more territory to cover, more constituents per councillor, and more committee work, according to Mayor Andy Letham.
While one local media source reported that the changes would mean a nearly 62 per cent increase, the increase is actually just over 34 per cent.
That increase in compensation comes with the expansion of the wards that councillors will be responsible for. Instead of 4-5,000 constituents per ward, each councillor will now represent 9-10,000 constituents.
“It’s not really a councillor raise,” says Letham. “It’s a workload that is increasing and so the salary is increasing to match that. It’s to keep up with the change in the job description.”
Letham says there are many councillors “who take a lot of pride in what they do.”
“We needed to figure out what was reasonable to attract people who are going to do the job so they are fairly compensated, within our budget considerations – and I think this strikes a middle ground,” he says.
The mayor says no one’s “getting rich for the amount of work they’re putting in.”
“If you looked at councillors’ work from an hourly wage, I think people would be shocked at how hard they work” for the remuneration they get.
“We do it for community service, first and foremost.”
Since there will be less councillors overall, and because the mayor was already finding it impossible to get to all events throughout the City, the new position of deputy mayor has also been created. It will be an appointed position by Council for a one year term. The job pays a regular councillor’s salary plus an additional $2,500.
The annual $109,000 in savings to citizens includes the creation of this new position.
“We’re going to have less councillors, so less of them are available to go to events. There are so many events that I can’t get to them all, so a deputy mayor could often help to fill in,” Letham says.
It was the previous Council’s decision to reduce the total number of councillors from 16 to 8. The new, larger wards were based on population, natural boundaries where appropriate like farmland or rivers, and communities of interest.
The staff report included consideration of the increased time and responsibility for each Councillor under the new structure.
All Council members are eligible for mileage reimbursement for any City business both within and outside of the City of Kawartha Lakes at the rate set by Council through policy.
The mayor and councillors’ salary, during the next term of Council and going forward, will be increased by the Consumer Price Index each year.
The mayor says a few months ago he had three “sharp, business people who want to run for council” approach him to talk and ask about the work.
“Not one of them asked how much it pays,” says Letham.
“They said they liked the direction the City is going and they wanted to be a part of that. To me, that’s a good sign for the future of our area.”