One of the first items for the newly-elected council at its first regular meeting was to approve an increase in remuneration for council and the mayor for 2019.

A report prepared by Champlain Township CAO Paula Knudsen explains that since the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) recently changed the tax rules for municipal elected representatives, councillors and the mayor stood to lose money as beginning in 2019, 100 per cent of their salaries would be taxable, as well as the allotment of $3,115 in expenses that each councillor can receive as payment for attendance at conferences, seminars or for mileage or items such as cell phone expenses. Previously, this amount was non-taxable, as was one-third of councillors’ and mayors’ salaries.

Knudsen told council that she sat down with Mayor Normand Riopel and came up with the report which was presented to council at the meeting. Changes proposed include a salary increase to $42,851 for the mayor, up from $36,895 paid to the mayor in 2018. Councillors would be paid $21,697, compared to $18,371 paid in in 2018. The changes include a 2.7 per cent cost of living increase, Knudsen notes in her report and are more “in-line” with what other elected representatives are being paid in Prescott-Russell. The pay increases work out to a 16 per cent increase for the mayor and 18 per cent for councillors.

Council was told that if the increases were approved, it would translate into an additional $46,000 in costs for 2019.

Councillors will also be paid $130 per committee meeting, up from $120 in 2018.

The income tax impact is based on a 20 per cent calculation, Knudsen explained, adding that there was additional information in council’s black folder. The increases would be necessary in order that the tax burden not be borne by councillors.

Knudsen said she conducted an informal survey of other municipalities in Prescott-Russell.

L’Orignal ward councillor Jacques Lacelle said that all other councils are doing this (increasing their salaries to compensate for CRA tax changes.)

But the other ward councillor for L’Orignal, André Roy, said he had a problem with it. He thought this should be part of upcoming budget discussions. The township will be reviewing its 2019 budget shortly at special meetings.

Roy and Longueuil councillor Violaine Tittley wanted to know if the increases could be changed at budget-time even if they were approved at the council meeting.

Roy continued to argue that the discussion of salary increases should take place as part of budget deliberations.

A resolution to that effect was brought forward, but was defeated. Council then returned to a motion for option 1, included in the CAO’s report, which was to approve the salary increases. Three of the eight councillors voted against this motion, but Riopel and the other councillors voted in favour of the increases. Vankleek Hill councillor Troy Carkner was absent from the meeting.

Additional discussions took place about meal allowances, which have been in effect since 2006. The proposed meal allowance for breakfast is $15, up from $10, $25 for lunch, up from the previous $20 and $50 for dinner, an increase from the $40 amount set in 2006.