BARRHEAD – Woodlands County councillors unanimously voted during their first online meeting on April 21 to pass a motion reducing their honourariums by 10 per cent, which remain in effect until the Woodlands County office re-opens its doors to the public and councillors start attending on-site meetings once again.
Woodlands County mayor John Burrows indicated the topic of reducing councillor remuneration came up after the municipality temporarily laid off seven full-time employees on April 17 to cope with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The salaries of senior administration members have also been reduced by 10 per cent, while other remaining staff are on reduced work schedules.
A $15,000 professional development fund, which was meant to cover the costs of councillors attending conferences and completing training, has also been reduced by $5,000 for the remainder of the year.
Coun. Dale Kluin, who represents the Fort Assiniboine/Timeu area, said he was in favour of eliminating the professional development fund altogether.
“I don’t know about you guys, but (based on) everything that I hear coming out of the Premier and everybody else that seems to know more than we do, I don’t think we’re going to be having any conferences or large meetings between now and the new year,” he said.
Kluin added that any professional development that councillors would undertake would probably be done online, in much the same way as they were conducting that day’s meeting.
Coun. Jim Rennie, who represents Whitecourt East, said he understood Kluin’s argument but pointed out a number of councillors were completing courses that would be paid for out of the professional development fund.
Burrows, who represents Whitecourt West, echoed Rennie’s sentiment, noting that any unused professional development money is simply returned to the budget.
It is worth noting that Woodlands County councillors had adopted a new system of remuneration back in January.
In addition to creating the $15,000 professional development fund, councillors eliminated the old system of being paid on a grade tied to the duration of meetings and instead introduced yearly salaries.
The mayor would be paid an honourarium of $70,000 each year, while councillors would earn $50,000 annually.
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