If approved by District council, in its next term sitting councillors would see a year-over-year increase in salary of approximately six per cent for the full four years of their term. By 2026, councillor salaries will have increased 27 per cent over 2021 rates.
The decision was made at District’s finance and corporate services committee meeting on Jan. 19, its second kick at the matter after rejecting recommendations made during committee’s December meeting.
The proposed increase, which will be forwarded to District council for consideration, would earn each councillor an additional $1,500 each year. District councillors currently receive $22,290 per year, and are also paid by their lower-tier municipalities (see chart at the bottom of this post). The proposed increase for next term breaks down as follows:
Year 1 (2022-23) – $23,800
Year 2 (2023-24) – $25,310
Year 3 (2024-25) – $26,820
Year 4 (2025-26) – $28,330
The chairs of the District’s four standing committees would receive an additional $2,000 per year for the duration of their term as chair. (The amount would transfer to a new chair should there be a change mid-term.) The consultant had recommended a $1,000 per year increase, but committee members didn’t feel this represented the extra work required of committee chairs.
The District chair would receive an annual increase of $2,400 (for year 1-4 salaries of $100,730, $103,130, $105,530, and $107,930). The deputy chair would receive an annual increase of $3,518 (for year 1-4 salaries of $25,808, $29,326, $32,844, and $36,362).
This option would add $39,628 to the District budget each year, or $158,512 over the term of council.
The total cost of council salaries over the four year term would be:
Year 1 (2022-23) – $628,338
Year 2 (2023-24) – $665,966
Year 3 (2024-25) – $703,594
Year 4 (2025-26) – $741,222
The selected option was one of several presented to committee by staff, who based their recommendations on a review of other upper-tier municipalities that had been conducted by ML Consulting. The municipalities chosen as comparators were: Region of Niagara, County of Oxford, County of Peterborough, County of Simcoe, and County of Wellington. The consultant identified the median councillor salary of these municipalities as the target for Muskoka.
Other options presented by staff included:
- an immediate increase to $31,036 per councillor, with the chair to receive $110,883 and the deputy chair to receive $36,574; or
- a phased increase of $2,601 per year (including inflation of 1.75 per cent), which would result in an annual salary of $32,695 by 2025-6, with the chair to receive an increase of $4,606 per year and the deputy chair to receive an increase of $4,059; or
- an increase equivalent to inflation (the total annual cost of this option in 2023 with inflation at 1.75 per cent would be $10,739 combined).
The staff report notes that Muskoka is “unique” among upper-tier municipalities in Ontario due to its small size, making true comparison difficult. The option selected by committee is, according to staff, equivalent to the 45th percentile of the comparator municipalities.
Here’s how Muskoka stacks up relative to the selected comparators:
|Municipality||Council size||2021 base pay for councillors||Households /councillor||Residents/councillor (seasonal in brackets where available)||Property assessment /councillor ($million)|
Members of the District finance and corporate services committee are: Councillor Graydon Smith (committee chair and Bracebridge mayor), Councillor Peter Koetsier (committee vice-chair and Georgian Bay mayor), Councillor John Gordon (Gravenhurst councillor), Councillor Frank Jaglowitz (Muskoka Lakes councillor), Councillor Robert Lacroix (Lake of Bays councillor), Councillor Karin Terziano (Huntsville mayor), and District chair John Klinck.
Councillor Terziano asked whether a different option was feasible: an unspecified lump sum at the start of the term followed by a cost-of-living increase for the balance of the term. “I’m not in favour of seeing a District councillor’s pay significantly greater than that of a lower-tier pay. It’s my belief that the lower-tier councillor has more on their plate, probably does more,” she said.
Councillor Lacroix called it “the hardest decision to make at council because of course you’re making it for yourself…or the next in line,” adding that he was pleased District staff used a consultant to “try and alleviate council making this decision.”
Councillor Koetsier agreed that the task is a difficult one, and noted that District councillors represent on average fewer households than most of the upper tier comparators. “I certainly don’t want to go down this path more than one or two sentences, but we tried on a number of occasions in past years…to reduce the size of our council,” he said, adding that he remembered a comment by a colleague during those discussions that if council was reduced in size, councillors should be paid more. “I mention that because comparing us to the 50th percentile, we’re not taking into account the number of households we represent…I’m finding myself tending below the 50th percentile option simply because I’m not sure our job is quite equal to some of the comparators…I think that’s, dare I say it, a bit rich for us given the size of our council and therefore the fewer residents that we represent on average.”
Chair Smith also said the decision was a hard one. “No matter how much data we have there’s an intangible quality to this that is the difficult part to put our hands around and decide what we want to do…when you do nothing, it just creates a bigger problem down the road to try and catch up to. Taking a little less aggressive approach but nevertheless still making those appropriate adjustments I think is a reasonable path forward, as it’s forward-looking and recognizes some of the unique features of Muskoka.”
Committee voted unanimously in favour of the $1,500 per year increase for the 2022-2026 term of District Council. The resolution will be forwarded to District council for consideration.
See the full report to committee here (PDF).
Addendum: councillor lower-tier and upper-tier salaries for 2021 by lower-tier municipality
Don’t miss out on Doppler!
Sign up here to receive our email digest with links to our most recent stories.
Local news in your inbox three times per week!