Compromise on Council Salaries

At the Council’s Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday, the Cobourg Taxpayers Association (CTA) made a strong case for much higher compensation for the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Councillors than was recommended by the Ad Hoc Committee.  As was reported two weeks ago (see links below), the Ad Hoc committee formed to look at remuneration recommended quite small increases (3.4 to 9.3%)  based on the practice at other comparable municipalities but Paul Pagnuelo of the CTA suggested that to be fair for the work done, much higher increases were appropriate.  The idea is that a higher salary would attract a higher caliber of candidate.  In addition, Paul suggested that there should be compensation for the loss of the tax exemption for 1/3rd of the remuneration.

Paul’s suggestion was supported by Debra McCarthy but Forrest Rowden said that candidates campaigning door-to-door would find it hard to explain the big jump.  Brian Darling and Suzanne Séguin said that in fact money was not the reason why Councillors took on the job so a big increase was not justified.

CTA Case for higher remuneration

Paul Pagnuelo - file photo
Paul Pagnuelo – file photo

In summary, Paul made the following points:

  • Taxpayers must realize that you get what you pay for.
  • The Mayor’s base salary should be increased to $48,100 in line with the current salary of Port Hope’s Mayor – a 38% increase compared to 9.3% recommended;
  • The Deputy Mayor’s salary should be increased to $43,290 – a 98% increase compared to 3.8% recommended
  • The salary of Councillors should be increased to $38,480 – a 220% increase compared to 3.4% recommended
  • This recommendation adjusts the salary spread between the positions to better reflect the responsibilities of each role; the Deputy Mayor’s salary should be set at 90% that of the Mayor’s, and a Councillor’s salary at 80% that of the Mayor’s.
  • All members of Council should be provided with office space at Victoria Hall and the tools they need to do their jobs.

Paul pointed to senior staff salaries which average $144,387 yet “Council members who have policy and oversight responsibilities average only $20,374”.  He also said that based on 25 hours per week, they get paid less than the minimum wage.

See the links below for the CTA Press Release.

There was a lot of discussion by Councillors on the subject with Gil and others seemingly reluctant to go beyond the recommendation of the Ad Hoc Committee.  Debra McCarthy wanted to have the Ad Hoc committee review the CTA recommendations but with its work completed, it has now disbanded.

Brian Darling was concerned that if the removal of the tax exemption for 1/3 of salary is implemented, then there would be a significant impact on income (given that in his case he also has a pension income).  He successfully moved an amendment that would look again at remuneration if in fact the tax exemption was removed.  Gil said that net salaries would not in fact be affected by this because they could then claim their expenses.  However, there would be a lot of onerous paperwork for both councillors and Town Staff as many expenses would be claimed that are currently part of the automatic exemption.  Because of this extra work, he felt that lobbying to stop the implementation would be successful.

In his presentation, Paul said there are 3 options:

  1. Delay a Decision (paralysis by more analysis)
  2. Status Quo (minor tweaks)
  3. Do what is fair, right and just in the eyes of ordinary people (pay council what it’s worth)

Finally, Debra moved that the matter be moved out a year and that the CTA recommendations be considered then (effectively option 1).  Brian Darling said that “people then have a chance to look at it”.  The motion approving the Ad Hoc Committee recommendations complete with the amendments about the tax issue and reconsidering in a year was then passed.  It will need final confirmation at the regular Council meeting on May 21.

Links and Notes

The CTA will be discussing the issue further at an Open House on May 23 at Trinity United Church from 2-4 p.m.

Print Article: 


Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
6 years ago

The proposal to up the wages is not unique to the CTA. I made the same suggestion at the committee meeting. Little reference is made of the statement. So not only Council did not do the job but the committee failed to consider the issue of the workload, or if they did it has never been reflected in the minutes. The workload here is the key. Why should councillors have a differing workload on committees. In fact in the first survey of Councillors the estimated average workload of the Councillors was just under 35 hours per week. More than enough to justify a raise. The problem here is that the report is a half-assed job to maintain the status quo.

They should be directed to go back to basics – establish the workload, determine if the job is a full-time one and then pay accordingly. Pity the only people who told the truth about the workload are the Councillors who won’t be running again.

Councillor Darling was diplomatic in his remarks but let’s call a spade a spade – “You pay peanuts; you get monkeys!”

Walter L. Luedtke
Reply to  ben
6 years ago

Agreed Ben.
It was obvious from the get-go that the committee dropped the ball when it shirked the question of workload.
Full-time or not? Hobby or job?
The question of pay for politicians was central in the British Chartist movement in the 1830s and 1840s. The Chartists demanded payment for MPs to enable ordinary people, not in possession of an independent income, to enter politics.
And when is the CTA going to address its core responsibility – taxes – rather than going after nickles-and-dime issues like Council pay and jumping on Nimby bandwagons?

6 years ago

I think there should be a salary increase for all new members elected to Council but, if someone is re-elected, their salary should remain exactly where it is. If they’re willing to sell out this town at their present salary, why give them a raise to do it?

Walter L. Luedtke
Reply to  Tim
6 years ago

“Sell out the town”?
Do you mean by waiving property taxes for condo-owners?
And did you find that brochure yet?

Reply to  Walter L. Luedtke
6 years ago

No, I mean by providing giveaways to well-off developers and property owners in the form of endless grants and interest-free loans, compliments of the taxpayers of Cobourg. Open your eyes, Walter. Instead of strolling along flowered paths, under hanging baskets and past fake nineteenth century lampposts, take a stroll around town and check out these slums that we, the tax-payers are subsidizing. Perhaps you haven’t noticed a stagnant downtown or a rising crime rate but then you probably haven’t walked into your house to find a couple of depraved thieves helping themselves to your belongings — yet.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Tim
6 years ago

Walter asked, “…did you find that brochure yet?”

Reply to  Wally Keeler
6 years ago

No, I have not found that brochure yet. I’m not the most organized person in the world but I have it somewhere and when I find it I’ll give to John. However, since the original owners of the condominiums behind Kelly’s did not have to pay property taxes for a certain number of years as part of the sales package, if Walter can’t wait for me to locate the brochure he has the option of doing some door-knocking to find out the truth. But it might be disappointing for him.

Reply to  Tim
6 years ago

Walter Tim,
Let me help you out. I don’t think it was in a brochure BUT THE NEW CONDOS at KING GEORGE MEWS did get the Tax rebate allowed under this towns (& others By-Laws).
Tim is right. I know because we built them but, BTW, the existing commercial DID NOT BENEFIT from this as they were always there.
The only other residential condos in the downtown commercial core that have received this rebate were the 5 in the the old Allen Building.
Apart from Condos though, if Mr. Lui for example was to renovate the 2nd & 3rd floors of his buildings to APARTMENTS they would get the REBATE.
In fact if any building on King, Spring, Covert, Orange or, say, KELLYS Homelike Inn substantial renovated and added Apartments or whatever THEY would get a rebate of the INCREASED COBOURG TOWN taxes created by the improvement. In other words the town is NOT giving anything away.
COBOURG (like every small town in Ontario) is DEFERRING THE INCREASED TAXES THAT THE REDEVELOPMENT BRINGS for 10 YEARS (i.e. 2019).
The town is not losing in the first 10 years. They didn’t have the INCREASED taxes in the FIRST PLACE.
All over Ontario this programme incentive is in place TO ENCOURAGE RE-DEVELOPMENT & RE-VITALIZATION.
All occupants benefit, be they Condo Owners, Apartment renters etc.
Makes sense to me. Please understand it is not a giveaway. Real money is being invested by the building owners which then increases their M.P.A.C. Assessment. Hence the REBATE.

Walter L. Luedtke
Reply to  Tim
6 years ago

You just can’t stop making stuff up, can you Tim?
Rising crime rate?
According to – wait for it! – the CTA, “Cobourg crime rates have fallen for years”.

Reply to  Walter L. Luedtke
6 years ago

In the link you’ve provided is there some statistical evidence that I’m overlooking? And if you are now scratching that small head of yours, wondering what site you could go to to provide some, before you bother, even statistics can be misleading. It may seem to the residents of Cobourg who are fortunate enough to live in the suburbs that Cobourg crime is falling and it may very well be almost non-existent in those areas but to anyone living in the centre of town, and especially residents who are surrounded by the low income housing that the well-off developers you defend provide, it is a plague. Tell the guy on James Street who came home to find two strangers in his house how low the crime rate is. Or the woman in the centre of town who had her door kicked in and lost everything of value. Or the guy on College St. who was burgled and had his father’s watch stolen. Or the owner of Top Cuts hair salon who was burgled three times in one month last year. Tell them there is a falling crime rate in Cobourg.

Reply to  Tim
6 years ago

6 years ago

The CTA is usually up in arms because they feel council votes on items that haven’t been thoroughly communicated to and discussed with the public. Yet they want this significant increased approved upon first sight? The proposed increases are not a bad idea but surely the people of Cobourg deserve a chance to weigh in. I’m glad they deferred the issue. The CTA have not been chosen to speak for all the taxpayers of Cobourg, as much as they might feel otherwise.

Reply to  Kath
6 years ago

What comments, pro or con, do you have about the actual proposal?
Why not offer these instead of your “shoot the messenger” comments.
Council, not the CTA, determines if, when and for how long as issue is considered.
The CTA has never claimed to be chose to speak for all Cobourg taxpayers.

The primary question is “should council be fairly paid for the job”, manage a $45M+ business with almost 300 employees.
Are you willing to do the work that they do for less than minimum wage?
If not, why would you expect them to?

Council did NOT defer the issue. They voted to accept the meagre “status-quo” recommendation of the ad-hoc committee instead of doing what is right and fair. Instead of taking a leadership role, council “punted” this fair pay decision to the next council.

DM Henderson tried to get the motion deferred to allow more time to consider the CTA’s proposal but the rest of council (Deb McCarthy excepted) wouldn’t go along with this.

Cobourg Person
Reply to  Bryan
6 years ago

Why wouldn’t council defer the issue to the next council? I believe that’s the prudent decision considering that a few Councillors (McCarthy, Rowden) have indicated that they won’t run. The decision regarding an increase in pay should be approved by the new Council.

The CTA is conducting an open house on May 23rd. Based on some recent comments I hope that the CTA will address some of the concerns about their organization, including the following:

1. Number of CTA members;
2. Support for claims such as “most of the citizens of Cobourg have indicated that they do not want more visitors coming to the beach”;
3. If the CTA holds meetings open to the public. If not, how do they determine what’s best for the taxpayers;
4. Rationale for intervening in Lakefront Utilities Cost of Service application which resulted in no savings customers;

Reply to  Cobourg Person
6 years ago

If you do not agree of the CTA’s positions you are free to form your own group and put forward your alternatives. In a democracy everyone can have an opinion regarding what is best and the majority decides. How many members do you have?

Reply to  Cobourg Person
6 years ago

1. Why is the number relevant? Focus on the issue at hand and the the analysis
2. Read the Waterfront Survey
3. How does Council determine this? They certainly don’t hold public meetings
4.You have been seriously misled.
The math is quite simple: a twelve year old can do it.
LUI asked for a base revenue requirement of $4,41,450 per year which is an 8.26% increase over the previous bsae
The OEB approved $4,260,112 which is an increase of 4.48%
The decrease (saving) is $154,428 per year
The agreement term is 5 years: $154,428 x 5 = $772,140
The OEB approved long term debt rate was 4.54% and was decreased to 3.72% in Nov 2016.
On the $7M affiliate loan, the interest reduction is $57,400 x 5 = $287,000

Strange…There is an “unexplained” remainder of $485,140

The Mayor claims that the intervenors produced no Lakefront customer savings and that the savings were totally the result of the interest rate reduction.

Clearly this is not the case as the above bit of math shows. The Mayor has never explained how this could be and what is the source of the mysterious “unexplained” $485K remaining savings.

The answer is simple….The intervenors.

See the documentation:

Greg H
6 years ago

I watched Paul Pagnuelo’s presentation on TV and thought it was very good and well thought out. The proposed increase for councillors and the Deputy Mayor could increase the number and quality of people willing to do these jobs. It is sad that the council is not willing to make decision now.

Reply to  Greg H
6 years ago

There was an interesting, related, story on CBC radio earlier this morning. The CBC podcast is available at

Reply to  Dubious
6 years ago

And CBC will be interviewing Paul tomorrow (Wed) morning at 8:10 am

Reply to  david
6 years ago

Which show/channel?