Al Siebring is concerned about moves by the federal government to peel back a decades-old tax break for elected officials.
Siebring, a councillor in the Municipality of North Cowichan, informed council at its meeting on March 21 that he will make a notice of motion at council’s next meeting requesting that staff prepare a report on remuneration for council members.
He said that as part of the federal government’s budget in 2017, elected members in Canada’s municipalities will soon be required to pay taxes for the first time on the approximately 30 per cent of their salaries that had been tax-exempt.
“For the past 50 years, the federal government has acknowledged the many expenses related to a municipal councillor’s work, including travel costs to attend meetings, office supplies and cell phones by making 30 per cent of our pay non-taxable,” he said.
“This will end in January, 2019, when the federal government will begin clawing back these tax breaks.”
Each councillor in North Cowichan makes approximately $21,865 in base salary and benefits per year, while the mayor makes $59,869.
Siebring said that, for him and the other five councillors in the municipality, that translates into about a $2,000 salary cut with the new rules.
“I will be asking for the staff report to determine if my numbers are right,” he said.
“I also would like staff to look at the whole picture as part of the report. There hasn’t been a review of municipal pay in North Cowichan for the past 10 years so I’d like to see a report comparing our municipal pay to other jurisdictions.”
Siebring said he, and many other municipal politicians, didn’t decide to enter local politics for the money, but there are increasing demands on their time and requirements for involvement with the community, which all come with costs.
He said that if council decides to direct staff to prepare the report, any recommendations likely won’t come into play until the next municipal elections in October.
“It would give the next council some numbers to work with,” he said.
“A lot of municipalities across Canada are asking for similar reports because of the government’s new rules.”