Council to address revised policy for remuneration, travel

Duane Hicks

FORT FRANCES—How much councillors are paid to attend meetings, and which qualify as out-of-town ones and which don’t, are among the subjects that will be reviewed at a meeting here Thursday morning (Dec. 3).
The council remuneration and travel committee will meet at 8:30 a.m. in the committee room downstairs at the Civic Centre.
Mayor Roy Avis said the committee, which council agreed to strike back in February, has been reviewing the town’s remuneration and travel policy—both for mayor and council and town staff—and will discuss recommendations for revisions at Thursday’s meeting.
Mayor Avis said the revised policy will clarify when councillors get paid for attending special meetings, and when they don’t, as well as how far they have to go to be considered out-of-town.
For example, if a meeting is being held just outside Fort Frances, like Couchiching First Nation or Sunny Cove, they aren’t considered out-of-town and won’t get paid.
But if someone were to attend an all-day annual general meeting of the Rainy River District Municipal Association, they will, regardless of where it is, because of the time commitment involved.
The revised policy also is expected to include an increase to mayor and councillors’ annual remuneration, said Mayor Avis, although these will not come into effect until the next term begins after the 2010 municipal election.
Mayor Avis noted mayor and council get paid less now than they did in 1988, and that if the town wants to attract younger councillors, it has to realistic and fair in its compensation.
As the policy stands now, he wondered how many people can afford to take days off work to attend meetings and travel.
“The problem is, right now, they [councillors] put in a tremendous number of meetings. If they are travelling out of town, I don’t see how a person could, unless they are retired or financially independent, could run for mayor or town council,” Mayor Avis remarked, adding there are about 30 town committees.
“There’s so much commitment to volunteerism, but if you’re a councillor, and you attend a meeting in Thunder Bay and you’re gone for a day, and you’re working for somebody, you either have to take a holiday or take a day off without pay,” he noted.
“If you take a day without pay, that’s where the [per diem] should fit in,” the mayor added, noting councillors currently get paid a $120 per diem (which is $30 lower than the average municipal per diem).
Currently, the mayor has a base salary of $22,322 while councillors have a base salary of $10,507.12.
They also get paid per diems and travel expenses, and some get honorariums for being appointees on certain boards, such as the Northwestern Health Unit, Fort Frances Power Corp., and Police Services Board.
The revised policy also will cover geographic boundaries for expenses. For example, everything west of Sudbury will be considered “Northern Ontario” while everything east and south is considered the “Toronto area,” and the per diem is adjusted upward accordingly.
Another area addressed is when town vehicles should and shouldn’t be used, and how much council members and staff get paid for travel if they choose to drive their own vehicle on a long-distance trip instead of flying.
(Fort Frances Times)