AMHERST – Amherst town councillors are about to get an early Christmas gift.
Staff is recommending elected officials receive an increase to their honorarium to bring it in line with the provincial average for similar-size communities.
“Staff have reviewed remuneration figures for elected officials and compared them to municipalities in Cumberland, New Glasgow, Bridgewater, Truro and Yarmouth,” Amherst’s director of finance Vince Arbing told council’s committee of the whole meeting on Monday. “Amherst’s remuneration for elected officials is significantly below other units of a similar size.”
He is recommending the honorariums be increased.
At present, the mayor receives $18,795 annually, while the deputy mayor receives $15,812 and councillors each get $14,628.
In Cumberland County, the warden receives $37,368 annually, the deputy warden gets $24,268 and councillors receive $22,060.
In New Glasgow, the mayor receives $33,723, the deputy mayor gets $23,186 and councillors each get $21,358. In Bridgewater, the mayor’s honorarium is $32,031, the deputy gets $20,860 and councillors receive $18,108.
The mayor of Truro receives $34,520, the deputy mayor gets $22,435 and councillors get $19,926, while in Yarmouth the mayor receives $35,261, the deputy mayor receives $24,889 and councillors each receive $20,741.
Arbing said he averaged the honorariums for Cumberland, New Glasgow, Bridgewater, Truro and Yarmouth to come up with a proposed honorarium of $34,580 for the mayor, $23,127 for the deputy mayor and $20,438 for councillors.
If approved by council at its monthly meeting next Monday, the changes would be retroactive to Nov. 1.
Arbing said the cost to the town for the remaining five months would be $20,020. While the change was not included in the 2012-13 budget, he said, there is room to make the change.
Amherst CAO Greg Herrett said he can’t remember the last time a review was done of council remuneration, but suggested this review shows how far behind Amherst is compared to other communities.
Council honorariums are traditionally tied to the consumer price index, similar to the town’s non-unionized staff.
Herrett said municipalities have different ways of reviewing what’s paid to elected officials. In some cases, staff do comparative analysis with other municipal units, some hire outside consultants, while others have had retired judges conduct the review.
Deputy Mayor George Baker said Amherst is the lowest of all the municipal units studied.
“This will bring Amherst up to the average,” he said. “We’ve been behind for a long time.”
Mayor Robert Small said he understands there will be questions about the increase, but said
“I’m sure people will have a comment on it, but this isn’t just for this council. It’s for future councils,” he said. “I believe if you want quality representation you need to encourage them to put their name forward as an elected official.”