The compensation levels of mayor and council will be reviewed next year alongside ward boundaries, the city’s elected officials decided during tonight’s finance committee meeting.
Debate regarding mayor and council remuneration levels was sparked in November when it was reported that Mayor Brian Bigger’s salary had increased by approximately 60 per cent in four years.
This was a jump in salary and benefits of $143,347 in 2016 to $228,873 in 2020, although his take-home pay increased by a much smaller degree. The majority of the increase accounts for a change in taxation wherein a portion previously tax-free was made taxable in 2019.
At the time, Sudbury.com also reviewed the Ontario Sunshine list for 20 Ontario mayors of municipalities greater than 100,000, which includes pay plus taxable benefits (a parameter by which Bigger earned $191,972 in 2020).
The average among these mayoral compensation totals was $166,614.
Greater Sudbury city councillors’ remuneration ranged from $45,152 to $53,967 in 2020 and their fringe benefits ranged from $9,408 to $14,746.
The publicization of these figures sparked public debate and resulted in Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc introducing a motion for mayor and council compensation levels to be reviewed.
During 2022 budget deliberations last month, Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti introduced an unsuccessful motion that would have had non-union staff members and city council remuneration frozen in 2022 at a cost avoidance of $470,000.
Leduc’s proposed motion came up a few weeks later and wound up being voted on at tonight’s meeting where the amended motion received near-unanimous approval. The lone holdout was Ward 2 Coun. Michael Vagnini, who didn’t provide an explanation and did not immediately return a phone call from Sudbury.com after the meeting wrapped up.
Amended by Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland, the motion pushes the proposed review to 2023, which brings it beyond this year’s municipal election scheduled for Oct. 24.
Earlier in the debate, general manager of corporate services Kevin Fowke said there could be arguments made for the decision to take place before the election or after.
“Is the last year of a council the time to do that type of a review?” he asked at the time. “You’re doing it not for yourselves, but you’re performing a review for the next council to come on.”
On the flipside, he said the start of a council’s mandate can be less encumbered by politics.
Although supportive of the motion as it was ultimately voted on, Leduc said after tonight’s meeting that he would have preferred the motion dealt with prior to this year’s election.
“What mayor’s going to do that, and what council’s going to do that?” he asked. “Nobody’s going to reduce their wages, you’ve got to do it now … otherwise it’s not going to happen until the election of 2026.”
Still, he added that it’s positive to see mayor and council compensation levels poised for review for the first time since 2006.
“It’s unfortunate we have to go out to a third party so the residents are more secure in the findings,” he said, adding that he’s also a fan of the wider grasp of the amended motion, which seeks to review all manner of compensation alongside ward boundaries.
The full motion as approved reads as follows:
WHEREAS compensation paid to members of Council for the City of Greater Sudbury has not been reviewed since 2006;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Council for the City of Greater Sudbury direct staff, with the assistance of a third party consultant, to compare total compensation for the offices of Mayor and City Councillor with other Ontario single tier municipalities with a population over 100,000 residents and that the results together with recommendations for each respective office be provided to the Finance & Administration Committee during the next term of Council, and that the costs be funded from the Human Resources Management Reserve Fund.
AND THAT the report and associated recommendations address:
- Base compensation and benefits
- Remuneration associated with required Council membership for Committee of Council and related boards and;
- Other relevant data that may be of assistance in providing a useful comparison with other municipalities
AND THAT prior to the commencement of the review in 2023 that the Clerk provides a report regarding a governance and ward boundary review that could be conducted prior to or as part of the remuneration review.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.