Guysborough council refuses pay raise

GUYSBOROUGH: Unlike every other municipality across the province, officials with the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) vetoed the option to give themselves a pay raise.

The pay raise, which would have come into effect in January, was recommended by the Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities (NSFM) as a way to offset the upcoming federal tax changes.

Barry Carroll, the municipality’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), said notices from the NSFM advised the one-third portion of the stipend elected officials received tax-free has been discontinued by the federal government.

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“As a result, elected officials across the country will now have less take-home pay as 100 per cent of the remuneration is going to be taxable,” he said addressing council. “The reason the tax deduction has been in place for more than 50 years was because it recognized the fact councillors had home office work to do, they had travel within their district to do – so that was included as part of that tax credit.”

Without discussion, councillors quickly voted against an increase to their stipend to make up the difference in take-home pay during November’s regular municipal council meeting last Wednesday.

“Council’s made a decision this evening, rather than our residents have to pick up the shortfall of that, each and every councillor will deal with it,” Pitts said following the meeting. “This one-third exemption was to cover your mileage and out of pocket expenses, whereas now council can’t file for travel expenses in regards to meeting constituents, and that’s been taken away from us – and that’s not fair.”

Carroll said officials with the MODG have surveyed all 50 municipalities in the province, and to date, they have all increased the total stipend.

“In our case, our finance staff has calculated the total of the stipends increased for all eight elected officials would equate to a $23,289.50 net impact on the budget, if council were to increase the total amount of the stipend to offset the tax portion that you now currently get credit for.”

This is something Pitts doesn’t want falling on the shoulders of residents.

“As we all know, we’re in some budget restraints [in 2018-19] and we’re looking at more [in 2019-20], and it’s not fair if everyone else has to put up with a little less – council should be no different.”

He said what has transpired in regards to the one-third taxed exemptions is not fair and that it was thrust upon them by the Canadian government.

“When you’re elected, you’re elected for four years, your term, you run under a certain set of criteria, and remuneration being one of them,” Pitts said. “And all of a sudden you’re halfway through your term, and the federal government has decided to take that away; that certainly changes the water on the beans, it’s not fair.”