NH Council pay could increase
By Denny Scott
North Huron Township Council will be considering increasing its base honorarium and per-meeting pay for council members at its Oct. 3 meeting, as well as considering a cost of living adjustment to be applied to remuneration every year.
During council’s Monday night meeting, staff indicated that North Huron council members were being paid less than the average when compared to other municipalities in Huron County.
The Reeve was estimated to be paid $10,814.27 in 2022, which includes payment for 24 meetings, less than the average of South Huron, Goderich, Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh (ACW), Central Huron, Morris-Turnberry and Howick which worked out to $18,127. Despite being below the average, North Huron’s Reeve wasn’t the lowest, with two municipalities below them. Both South Huron, with a $31,562 honorarium for its mayor, and Goderich with a $22,134 honorarium for its mayor, drove up the average with the remaining five municipalities lower than the average. South Huron, however, does not pay per meeting, leading to the higher honorarium.
A similar situation exists for the Deputy-Mayor who, in North Huron, is estimated to receive $8,646 in honorarium and meetings, lower than the $14,029 average. All municipalities surveyed, however, were below that mark save South Huron at $25,585 and Goderich at $17,517.
Finally North Huron Councillors are estimated to receive $7,398.78 in honorarium and meeting payments for this year, less than the average of $11,678. Again, comparators in South Huron ($19,883) and Goderich ($13,325) are the only municipalities with payment above the average.
North Huron council member’s per-meeting payment, which is $65.01 for meetings up to two hours, $108.35 for meetings between two and four hours long and $130.02 for meetings more than four hours is again below the average of $100.43 for two hour meetings, $125.59 for two-to-four hour meetings and $173.25 for meetings greater than four hours.
As a result, staff suggested increasing the Reeve’s pay from an estimated $11,204 in 2022 to $12,600 in 2023, the Deputy-Reeve’s pay from an estimated $9,036.06 to $10,8000 and councillors’ pay from $7,789 to $9,000. Meeting payments would also increase from $65.01 for a two hour or less meeting to $80, from $108.35 for meetings two-to-four hours to $125 and from $130.02 for a meeting longer than four hours to $175.
On top of that, staff recommended a cost of living adjustment, meaning council would no longer set its pay and not have it change until addressed, but remunerations would automatically increase by the cost of living adjustment determined by looking at inflation from October of the past year to September of the current year.
The honorarium increase would cost the municipality nearly $12,000 next year, with each meeting costing between $14.99 and $44.98 per council member.
Staff also suggested several other changes to the council remuneration bylaw including cutting training funds carried over from one year to the next and bringing the expenses, like mileage, in the document in line with staff values.
Deputy-Mayor Trevor Seip said the optics might be bad for council to approve a wage increase for itself, but the relatively low number of people running in the election proved that the position wasn’t attractive enough to bring out applicants, and pay could be part of that.
He said it didn’t make sense to ask people to give up time from their family and social lives without appropriate remuneration, and the fact that North Huron was lower than the average proved the pay wasn’t where it should be.
Seip went on to say council needs to be accountable and find a way to fund these remuneration increases without turning to increased taxation.
Councillor Chris Palmer agreed, saying that councillors’ jobs were vital and that the cost of the increase is minimal.
Reeve Bernie Bailey said the current session of council has worked harder than any he’s aware of in North Huron’s recorded history, and proven that councillors deserve higher remuneration. He also said that no one would “work cheaper tomorrow
than yesterday” so this had to happen.
In a recorded vote requested by Councillor Paul Heffer, council members Bailey, Seip, Palmer, Kevin Falconer, Anita Van Hittersum and Ric McBurney voted in favour of having the bylaw, including the remuneration increases, brought to council’s Oct. 3 meeting for consideration, while Heffer voted against it.