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Consultant to study Woolwich council pay

What Woolwich councillors will earn following the next election will be determined by a paid consultant, the current batch of politicians decided this week.

Where the last review in 2006 saw a committee of volunteers from the community decide on the honourariums paid to elected officials, this time around the township will spend $5,000 for a human resources company to do the work. It will study the pay in comparable municipalities and make a recommendation for Woolwich.

Coun. Mark Bauman’s suggestion a staff member simply call around to neighbouring municipalities to find out what they pay councillors failed to catch on. Chief administrative officer David Brenneman explained that staff could do the work, but would be in an awkward position to make a recommendation back to council.

An outside body would provide “independent advice,” he added.

Coun. Murray Martin, however, was not convinced, voting against the idea. The $5,000 fee, he argued, would cover a two-per-cent increase in pay to councillors.

Furthermore, as the township moves into a time of restraint, having doled out handsome wage settlements in recent years, it would be “hypocritical” for council to take anything more than what it is willing to offer staff.

And given a reduced meeting schedule now in place, the workload has been reduced for the compensation already in place, he added.

His was the lone voice of dissent, however. With Coun. Sandy Shantz absent, Bauman and Coun. Ruby Weber supported hiring the consultant. Mayor Bill Strauss spoke in favour of the move – “I don’t have a problem spending $5,000 … getting this company in.”

Last year, the mayor was paid $23,692, while each of the four councillors got $11,846. Each has received an annual raise of 2.5 per cent since the term of council began in 2006. That increase was approved by a five-member committee of community volunteers struck prior to the last election.

Any changes that come about from this summer’s process will apply to the incoming group following the Oct. 25 vote. Traditionally in Woolwich, a review of pay is done in the final year of council’s term. Other municipalities have opted to tie in council increases to those offered unionized employees, which is usually what’s offered to non-union staff as well. In Woolwich’s case, the process is separate for councillors.

“Ultimately, it’s a political decision,” Brenneman acknowledged of the pay received by elected officials.

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