Norfolk council has agreed to forgo a scheduled wage increase, citing difficult economic times across the board.
The vote at Day 4 of Norfolk’s 2021 budget deliberations on Jan. 26 was unanimous but there was some grumbling along the way.
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The motion was brought to the floor by Turkey Point Coun. Chris VanPaassen. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic disruption it has caused, he said, “I just don’t believe it’s a good year to implement a pay increase to our elected officials.”
Norfolk policy is to top up council wages each year at the same rate accorded non-union staff. Wages and benefits for the nine members of Norfolk council last year came to $451,600. Treasury staff members say foregoing this year’s pay adjustment is worth about $3,900 in total.
Waterford Coun. Kim Huffman supported the motion but took exception to the way it came to the floor.
“This would’ve been something nice to discuss with your colleagues prior to,” Huffman said. “I don’t like these issues that pit people against each other.
“I will support this, but I would have you know there are some disparities in wages around this table. This is my sole source of income and I have two children at home to support.”
Port Dover Coun. Amy Martin also supported the proposal but advised council to be careful with such measures. Martin said council work is challenging and time-consuming, adding skimping on remuneration could hurt in terms of recruiting talented candidates.
In 2019, Norfolk councillors earned about $44,000 in wages and benefits. The deputy mayor’s position is worth $46,000 a year while Mayor Kristal Chopp drew wages and benefits totalling $104,880 in 2019 according to a treasury report. This compares with $149,700 collected by Haldimand Mayor Ken Hewitt for the same pay period.
Chopp, who seconded VanPaassen’s motion, defended how it came to the floor. Chopp said canvassing colleagues in advance on any subject that comes to council is contrary to the Municipal Act.
“This would actually be advancing council business outside council chambers,” Chopp said, adding she’s taking the biggest hit of anyone at Governor Simcoe Square.
Treasurer Kathy Laplante said the foregone wage increase works out to about $430 per position. The hit to the mayor’s remuneration is worth about $1,000.
Clerk Andy Grozelle reminded council that – as a cost-cutting measure – members agreed to tighten up on their mileage allowance last year. In combination with a 2021 wage freeze, Grozelle said council is cutting back on remuneration more than other municipalities.