Gore Bay council looking to raise its stipend by 25 percent

GORE BAY—Gore Bay council is in support of a proposal made by Councillor Ken Blodgett to increase the overall remuneration for council by 25 percent, bringing the stipend closer to other municipalities on Manitoulin Island.

“I think it is time for us to have a discussion on increasing the remuneration for council and mayor,” stated Councillor Blodgett at a meeting last week. “Any newly elected council is nervous about giving itself a raise because members of the public say, ‘as soon as they got in, they gave themselves a raise.’ The only time to look at this is at the end of the council’s term.”

“We can’t be afraid of backlash,” stated Councillor Blodgett, noting that, “compared to other municipalities on the Island, we are in fact receiving much less than the average.”

“I don’t care if one or two people write letters to the local newspaper opposing this,” said Councillor Blodgett. “If we are afraid to approve something that makes sense because it might upset somebody, we shouldn’t be on council.”

Councillor Blodget explained that the mayor of Gore Bay receives approximately $8,471.64 per year while the average stipend for mayors and reeves on Manitoulin is $9,409.22. Gore Bay is approximately 11 percent below the average.” He said, “the average councillor on Manitoulin Island receives an annual income of $6,414.68. Gore Bay councillors receive an average of $4,711.56 per year. This is approximately 36 percent below the average of all councils on Manitoulin Island.”

“If anyone receives backlash about this, tell them to call me,” stated Councillor Blodgett. “Being on council is not a volunteer job. It is a job. We have talked about increasing the stipends at least as far back as 16 years ago when I first joined council. And now we are actually getting paid less because the government has taken away a portion of councillors stipends’ through income tax regulations.”

“This is a job, we have to get prepared for meetings, do our research and be at meetings and discuss issues, resolve issues and make decisions that benefit the town,” said Councillor Blodgett. “There is a lot more to it than sitting at a council meeting for two hours every month. We have received one percent increases a couple of times over the years, but this is still below cost of living increases.”

“In the last three terms, council has done a good job with the roads, boardwalk, marina, arena and other projects,” said Councillor Blodgett.

A recommendation had been made that would bring the Gore Bay mayor’s stipend to $9,120.00 (three percent below average) and councillors to $6,120 (five percent below average). The net effect of this would increase the overall cost of council from $36,741 to $45,840 (25 percent increase).

“My question is, can anyone tell me why we shouldn’t be at parity with other municipal councils on the Islands,” asked Councillor Blodgett. “And if there is not a good answer, then we should go ahead. This council has done a great job, as have the previous two councils.”

However Councillor Kevin Woestenenk cautioned, “this is too big a jump too quickly. We don’t have the tax base and revenues and income that a town like NEMI (Town of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands does). I treat being a councillor the same as being a volunteer in the community. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be any increase, but I would say maybe a two percent increase should be in place. And I would suggest that we make it a goal to have five new houses built in Gore Bay. The only way to get increased tax revenues is by creating development, building houses, etc. We can set a goal for development and look at increasing councils’ remuneration by 25 percent over time.”

“We can’t expect future councils to do the same,” said Councillor Blodgett. “I’m proposing this for future councils, and if we don’t do this now we will never do it.”

“I get it, and what you are saying,” said Councillor Woestenenk. “But a 25 percent increase is just too much.”

“I agree 100 percent with you Ken,” said Councillor Jack Clark. “It is the right time to do this. Gore Bay (remuneration) is below the average of other municipalities but with the exception of NEMI and Central Manitoulin, the responsibilities and what we have to deal with in a town, we need to be at least comparable to others.”

“I agree with the increase you are proposing,” said Councillor Clark. “I completely support you, Councillor Blodgett.”

Councillors Aaron Wright and Leeanne Woestenenk also indicated they support the increase proposed by councillor Blodgett.

“We had almost the exact same proposal brought forward when I first started on council,” said Mayor Dan Osborne. “But at that time, we were all new to council, so we said ‘no’ to the increase. I’m like you, Kevin, on this but when our responsibility as councillors cuts into our own work, that is different. And, as Ken said, we are doing more than putting in a couple of hours a month for a meeting.”

It was also suggested for consideration by council that part of the changes would include increasing the amount paid to the mayor for attending meetings to $70 from the current $50, increasing the monthly base rate for councillors to $200 from the current $122.63 and increase the amount paid to councillors for meetings from $50 to $60. This would effectively eliminate the meeting chair’s ‘bonus’ rate (not used in an any other municipality).

The revisions being recommended will be brought to the next council meeting. Council passed a motion approving the changes and for staff to make the revisions and recommendations for a motion for council to consider and carry at its next meeting regarding the increases.