17 reasons why City Council deserves the 3.8% raise

City Council will receive a 3.81% salary increase in 2015, which would make the mayor’s salary $176,145 and the councillors’ salary $99,994. That’s an increase over their 2014 salaries of $6,464 and $3,671, respectively. As one third of that is tax exempt, the fully taxable equivalent salary is $213,272 for the mayor and $118,824 for the councillors. At the end of the day, we’re talking about another $50,516 per year to pay for all the increases. It’s not a large amount, and I think it’s fair.

City Council Swearing In 2013-2017

Here are 17 reasons why Council deserves the proposed raise, in no particular order:

  1. Under our current twelve ward system, Councillors represent between 60,000 and 95,000 Edmontonians each. And our city is one of the fastest growing in the country, so that number is only going up!
  2. Council’s compensation is calculated in an open and transparent way using the percentage change in the 12 month average of the Alberta Weekly Earnings values as reported by Statistics Canada.
  3. Just counting Council & Committee meetings and public hearings, Council met 115 times in 2014. Those meetings included a combined 3,825 agenda items. Many of those included multi-page reports. That’s a lot of reading!
  4. Unlike other levels of government, Councillors do not vote on their own pay raises. It’s done automatically through an independent system that was established in 2011 by bylaw 15969.
  5. An increase of 3.8% is nothing compared with historical increases! Before the current system was implemented, aldermen awarded themselves large increases. In 1972 aldermen gave themselves a 26% increase, and in 1977, immediately after the election, aldermen tried to increase their salaries by 60%! In 1989, aldermen approved a 51% increase over three years.
  6. Supported by Council, our mayor stood up in front of a room full of business people and said that while attempting to eliminate poverty is a complex challenge, he is is unafraid to tackle it. This Council believes in the importance of representing and improving the lives of all Edmontonians.
  7. Councillors work long hours, way more than 40 per week in most instances. Just look at the last week – they had a marathon discussion about Uber and taxis that went to nearly 10pm, and they extended the January 26 Public Hearing twice in order to give everything the time it deserved. On top of that they regularly attend community events throughout the week and on weekends. A busy week could easily exceed 60 hours.
  8. Councillor Gibbons estimated back in 2012 that the proposed 5.35% increase that year worked out to an extra $2 per hour based on the number of hours he puts in.
  9. Many members of Council choose to direct portions of their salary or their eligible increases to worthy causes. For instance, in 2011, 2012, and 2013 Councillor Iveson donated $2,505 of his salary to the Donate-a-Ride program. Sometimes members of Council simply decline an increase. For instance, Mayor Mandel froze his salary for three years until his final year in office.
  10. They are working hard to develop a “true partnership” with the Province that will result in the long-term sustainability of our city. They are renewing neighbourhoods now and building up a fund to pay for maintenance in the future. They’re concerned with Edmonton’s future, not just its present.
  11. A study on the perception of Council’s compensation in 2012 (pdf) found that the annual salaries for comparable positions for the mayor and councillors align well with the actual salaries they receive.
  12. One comparison to another leader in our community: outgoing University of Alberta president Indira Samarasekera earned a salary of $544,000 last year. Another comparison: more than 3,100 Alberta government employees earned over $100,000 a year in 2012 and 2013.
  13. Unpopular as the idea may sound, research suggests that higher wages attract better quality politicians and improve political performance. This was the argument made in Boston recently too when Councillors there debated giving themselves a 29% raise.
  14. Council is committed to building our city’s infrastructure, and they’re getting results, securing funding for the Valley Line LRT extension as an example.
  15. If rising costs are your concern, there are far more expensive things to be concerned about. Here are 99 stupid things the government spent your money on. At #53: “The City of Edmonton spent $500,000 on licences for software that an auditor said hardly any employees ever use.” Back in 2008, the City spent $92 million on consultants.
  16. After taking into account the difference in tax exemptions, our mayor and councillors make roughly the same amount as their counterparts in Calgary.
  17. Every year, no matter what they do, Councillors have to deal with hundreds if not thousands of complaints about snow removal, potholes, and other hot topics. Not to mention hearing constant NIMBYism and receiving all kinds of criticism as they try to make positive change for now and the future. It really is a thankless job at times.

I’m sure you can think of many other reasons – what are yours?

Yes, improvements could be made. I’d like to see the salaries stated in terms of the fully taxable equivalent for instance, rather than having to explain that 1/3 is tax exempt. Still, I think it’s crazy how upset some citizens get whenever the topic of salary increases for City Council comes up. There’s no shortage of other more important issues to discuss.

9 thoughts on “17 reasons why City Council deserves the 3.8% raise

  1. Yes I can think of many reasons why they deserve this raise and why I think this raise is NOT enough!!
    If they are only working 60 hours a week (which I highly doubt, I think its a lot more), the wage of a councilman is $32.05 / hour. The mayors hourly wage would be $56.45 / hour. For educated people running our city, this is insulting! When people complain about “another raise” I see red! Who do you want running our city?? The guy who delivers water to your office??? Really?? That’s all your going to get with low wages. (no offense to anyone who delivers water).
    And I’m sick of reading comments on boards that say “I haven’t received a raise in 5 years”… Wow, you must either 1. have a really crappy boss or 2. you must not be a very good employee.
    Quality people get quality wages!! Even in hard times!

  2. So Alberta Gov declines a raise and city Council gives itself a raise and raises taxes again like normal. Wonder if we are building more marbles in the River Valley for a couple million dollars this year.

    Or Maybe we should pay a consultant a crap ton of money for some new Slogan Ideas…..

  3. Hadn’t thought of you as a pr person for the city, but apparently I was wrong. Wonder why the salaries for our civic representatives have a tax free portion and those of our provincial residents do not. The number of people they represent is hardly a reason for an increase in salary. When there were only six wards, the number of people was even higher. Edmonton as one of the fastest growing cities in Canada is likely to be yesterday’s news. We don’t pay our councilors to work hard, we pay them to work smart. Your number 15 is something everyone should pay attention to. Interesting that you would flag the number of AGO individuals who make more than $100,000. The only reason you know that is that the Province has a sunshine list and the city does not. Wonder what the city’s numbers would look like. So much for transparency.

    1. I agree that we want them to work smarter, not harder, but that doesn’t change the fact that we ask a lot of them. I agree that greater transparency on civic costs would be desirable. The tax free portion isn’t a huge issue except it makes the costs harder to understand. On the comment abt pr, I think it’s clear that I share quite a bit of criticism as well on this blog.

      1. Perhaps you are right on the pr thing. It is unfortunate that the decline of the broadsheet has left little in the way of oversight for the actions at city hall. Compared to the scrutiny of provincial politicians, city council gets a free ride. We don’t know how many sole source contracts have been issued. We don’t know if there is a cooling off period when someone leaves the city and goes to work for a firm that does business with the city. There is no lobbyist registry. The list goes on. However, my concern is not really about councilors but about the civic administration. The 3.8% raise is more a matter of optics than anything else.

  4. There is an 18th reason. City Council is compensated for the tax/fee increases that they approve during budget time deliberations, AND still receive enough of a pay increase to stay ahead of the cost of living increases during the year.

    While people on fixed income receive 1.8% increase, and others around 2 to 2.5% pay increase. For the Council to receive nearly 4% pay raise becomes an issue of social injustice and pay raise inequality. .

  5. How about not taking that raised in this recession time and put that money to good use…Like not raising our land taxes….Just saying, it probably is well deserved but people who build this city and province work a lot harder and longer hours and even worse, sacrifice not seeing their families for weeks upon end just so they can afford the basic necessities ….Have you seen what beef or chicken costs at the supermarkets. Electricity (This one you can blame the former mayor who also raised our taxes by almost 50% in 7 years). I can think of 34 reasons hard working people in this city should get a 3.8% raise before any politician. But will they? I think that’s self explanatory.

  6. Politicians of all levels should be capped at $65k a year plus benefits. Since when should you be “elected to six figures”?

    Any startup founder who pays taxes will ultimately be working harder for someone else aka “entitlement”

    Furthermore, since when should you make more than the working class to represent the working class?

    I smell a PC here……

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