Council Remuneration Report

At the Council meeting tonight, the chair of the Council Remuneration Ad Hoc Committee Terry Stopps presented his findings.  The goal was to provide potential Councillors with an indication of what they would be paid before they applied.  So the recommendation was just in time – tomorrow (May 1st) is the first day that potential candidates for the upcoming election in October can file their application to run.  The committee of citizens met to consider what the compensation should be and they came up with a basis for a decision. They looked at remuneration in 20 comparable towns and decided to recommend the median of what they paid.  When asked “why the median?” Terry said that it was fair and the median “takes out outliers”.  He also said that there was no data to support (or otherwise) a premium such as using the 60th percentile.

Terry Stopps
Terry Stopps

One contentious issue is that currently, one-third of the salary is tax free because it’s considered an “undocumented expense”.  The most recent Federal Liberal budget indicated that this benefit would be removed so there was a suggestion that salaries should be increased to compensate for this loss.  The committee decided against this because it was not clear what comparable municipalities would be doing.  That is, they deferred a decision on this.

Another thought put forward was that Councillors should be considered full-time since many do in fact work full-time hours.  Coupled with this is that Councillors do not have offices but work out of their homes.  Also, the workload of councillors varies significantly.  The committee felt that this was a broader issue and deserved more study and was perhaps something to be undertaken by the next council.

The previous by-law allowed expenses to be charged for spouses that accompanied Councillors to conventions etc. The committee said that this should be discontinued since in the ”modern view” it was not appropriate. Forrest Rowden said that given the load on spouses, the reimbursement was a small reward for what they do – he estimated about $1000 per year.

20 towns they looked at

    Pop’n House-holds Mayor Deputy Mayor Councillor

1 Jan 2017

1 Selwyn 17,060 8,587 33,571 22,354 18,323
2 Pelham 17,110 6,882 33,990 N/A 15,578
3 Petawawa 17,187 6,875 40,698 25,899 22,199
4 Niagara on the Lake 17,511 6,691 45,200 N/A 14,300
5 Port Colborne 18,306 10,300 34,916 N/A 10,103
6 South Frontenac 18,646 10,336 29,932 14,931 12,716
7 Springwater 19,059 7,530 35,228 26,901 21,338
8 Town of Cobourg 19,440 8,958 34,720 21,851 17,528
9 Huntsville 19,816 10,084 43,819 21,270 19,270
10 Wasaga Beach 20,675 12,821 26,272 18,279 14,260
11 Strathroy-Caradoc 20,867 8,919 44,728 23,004 17,892
12 Oro-Medonte 21,036 9,388 31,050 24,841 19,361
13 Wilmot 21,151 7,822 27,479 N/A 13,240
14 Uxbridge 21,176 8,050 47,822 N/A 40,000
15 Brockville 21,346 10,794 40,651 N/A 17,932
16 Kingsvllle 21,552 8,676 30,834 20,885 16,969
17 Scugog 21,617 8,725 43,162 N/A 27,003
18 Owen Sound 21,688 10,148 48,159 24,880 21,636
19 Clarence-Rockland 24,512 9,639 45,880 N/A 26,218
20 Orangeville 28,734 10,678 47,484 28,264 25,551
The Median
37,939 22,679 18,128

When asked why Port Hope was not one of the Towns, the answer was that it did not fit in the population sample – it was too small.

Recommendation Summary

  Salary Benefit Value Salary Benefit Value
Mayor $34,720 $5,700 $37,940 $5,700
Deputy Mayor $21,851 $5,700 $22,679 $5,700
Councillor $17,528 $5,700 $18,128 $5,700

Annual CPI adjustments will apply.

Although at this point Council simply accepted the report for information purposes, since all councillors were in general agreement with the recommendations, actions will no doubt be taken to ensure that the salaries indicated will be in force for the new council in 2019. Update – May3: This recommendation is on the Council’s agenda on the C.O.W. meeting on May 14.  The only “change” is an effective date of Dec 3, 2018 to coincide no doubt with the swearing in of a new council.


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6 years ago

Tom’s analysis is interesting but overlooks the questions that we should be asking. For example:
Would paying more encourage competent people to run?

Does the extremely low remuneration for Councillors and the Deputy Mayor mean that only retirees or the independently wealthy can run? Is that a good thing?

Does the Mayor do more than twice the work of a Councillor? (Consider that he gets a much higher salary + secretary + office + parking spot + additional pay from Holdco/ Police Services/ County/ etc.

Why compare Cobourg remuneration to that in Petawawa? A Cobourg resident can’t run for office there and a Petawawa resident can’t run in Cobourg. If we must compare then why pick only 20 comparable towns rather than ALL towns that are similar to Cobourg?

Is paying Councillors far less than minimum wage even legal?

Tom Holden
6 years ago

The data for Port Hope is surprising – its Council is better remunerated than is Cobourg’s.
Municipality Pop’n House-holds Mayor Deputy Mayor Councillor
Port Hope 16753 7305 $48,400 $26,000 $20,000

If we use Port Hope in lieu of Orangeville:
Median 20246 8822 $37,940 $22,679 $18,128
Average 19825 8927 $38,326 $22,591 $19,293

Walter L. Luedtke
Reply to  Tom Holden
6 years ago


Tom Holden
6 years ago

For comparables, the omission of Port Hope (2016 pop 16,214) and the inclusion of Orangeville (pop 28,734) seems asymmetrical relative to Cobourg (pop 19,440). Port Hope is closer to Cobourg in every respect than is Orangeville and should be included. Orangeville is the outlier and should be excluded.

Statistics are wonderful. Medians are representative of the middle of the pack in a large random distribution. But take a small non-random sample and assess whether the median is representative of anything. For example the median of this set of numbers {0,0,1,2,8,9,9,9,9} is 8 while the median of {0,0,1,2,3,9,9,9,9} is 3. The average might be more representative of the set.

The revised medians with Oakville excluded are:
$35,228 $22,354 $17,932

The average with Oakville:
$38,280 $22,780 $19,571
and without Oakville:
$37,795 $22,281 $19,256

I don’t have the Port Hope numbers for comparison or inclusion.

Councillors might be happier with the average than with the median.

Wally Keeler
6 years ago

Watched the live stream — maximum number of viewers: 7.

Reply to  Wally Keeler
6 years ago

Interesting! There were considerably more than that at the actual meeting.

Walter L. Luedtke
6 years ago

Oh the courage of citizens’ committees!
It would seem to me that one should make a decision on the nature of the job first.
Is it full-time or sort of like lawn bowling – a retiree’s hobby?
The citizens decided not to decide.
So how to remunerate this impossible-to-describe job?
The citizens decided not to decide that either.
Instead they looked around to see what other municipalities decided,
And then they decided to do something in the middle of those decisions.

Reply to  Walter L. Luedtke
6 years ago

Quote from John – “Another thought put forward was that Councillors should be considered full-time since many do in fact work full-time hours. Coupled with this is that Councillors do not have offices but work out of their homes. Also, the workload of councillors varies significantly. The committee felt that this was a broader issue and deserved more study and was perhaps something to be undertaken by the next council.”

To answer Walter’s pithy remarks – and dead-on, here are the remarks made by the delegation that spoke to that very point. Pity it was punted to the next Council and none of the candidates for election will ever campaign on the truth. In fact they will all deny it publicly!

6 years ago

I’m under-whelmed by these results. I generally considered our Council (excl the Mayor) to be ‘significantly’ underpaid given their time & workload commitments to our Town. Certainly don’t know about the workload of the other 20 Munis; maybe they undervalue their Councilors as well.

Old Sailor
6 years ago

My calculation is that the salary and benefits paid to our Mayor, Deputy Mayor and five Councillors in total equals what one average police constable earns in Cobourg. And that is not the constable’s fault.

We get what we pay for. Perhaps paying our Council in the top quartile range would attract top quartile members of Council.