KAGAWONG – Billings Township council recently gave its approval to having council and mayor remunerations increased—the first since 2014. The stipend increase put Billings council in line with other similar-sized Manitoulin Island and area municipalities.
After discussion at its previous meeting, October 6, in which it was agreed that the mayor and council remuneration should increase, a recommendation had come back to council from township CAO/Clerk Kathy McDonald that the Mayor would receive $425 per month and $95 per board/committee meeting (as compared to the rates now of $2,300 per year base rate and $70 per council meeting and a $60 per special council/committee board meeting; and council to receive $300 per month and $75 per board/committee meeting (as compared to $1,800 per year base rate and $75 per council meeting and $60 per special council/committee board meeting).
Mileage rates were also recommended to be raised from 50 cents per kilometre outside the municipality to 52 cents per kilometre and meal rates (for mayor and council members attending off-Island conferences for example) would be up to $90 per day.
“My only problem with all of this is that I think council should review (the stipends) every year,” said Councillor Sharon Alkenbrack. “The last time council looked at these rates was 2014; this should be reviewed on a more regular basis. They should be looked at periodically.”
“I think there should be some discussion as to building in a yearly increase, maybe based on cost of living,” said Councillor Bryan Barker.
“I am in favour of the way staff has set this out,” said Councillor Michael Hunt.
Councillor Sharon Jackson said that she was in favour of the new rate structure and that compared to other municipalities of comparable size to Billings, it is fair.
Council had first discussed this issue at a meeting in September. It was noted that council remuneration had been discussed by the previous council near the end of their term, but no changes were made at that time.
Council stipends in Gordon/Barrie Island, NEMI and Assiginack were compared to Billings rate structure.
“Staff has done research on rate structures and we have the comparison with Gordon/Barrie Island, Assiginack and NEMI. From my own perspective clearly are rates are lower, quite a bit lower,” said Mayor Ian Anderson.
“After seeing the comparison I was shocked,” said Councillor Bryan Barker. “We are very far behind other municipalities, including those that are about the same size population-wise as we are. None of us are doing this for the money, but all that being said there is a huge gap. I don’t think we’re asking for the world, just to at least be in line with other communities like Gordon/Barrie Island.”
Councillor Sharon Jackson said in comparing the numbers with other municipalities, Gordon/Barrie Island is closest in population to Billings and using a rate model similar to theirs would be reasonable.
Council passed a resolution at a recent meeting to have the new remuneration rates set to begin January 1.