Citizens committee recommends pay hike for councillors, status-quo raises for mayor

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Windsor’s mayor and councilors should receive annual raises during the next four-year term and councilors should get an extra boost to start.

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That’s according to a citizens committee responsible for assessing council compensation, which on Tuesday released the findings of its six-month review.

The three-person group is recommending that city councillors’ salaries rise to $52,000 effective next year — a jump of roughly $5,000 — with annual increases reflecting raises given to the city’s non-union managerial staff for the duration of the council term (2024 to 2026 ). That has been the status quo since the previous committee’s report in 2018.

While no need for a mayoral salary hike was identified, the current committee recommends the mayor’s salary continue to rise based on the annual increase given to the city’s non-union managerial staff.

“I would describe the process that we engaged in as deliberate, as slow, as unrushed, and very considered,” said University of Windsor vice-president Vincent Georgie, who chairs the committee. “We were very thoughtful and balanced to make sure we had the best and (most) measured understanding possible of compensation for the City of Windsor.”

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Georgie said the committee made “several considerations” when deciding on the salary increase for councillors, including the role’s classification as part mtime. In meeting with each councillor, “it was quite clear that in many cases, we had people who were absolutely broaching full-time work or full-time hours.”

Attracting and retaining “excellent candidates to run and successfully win” council seats also played a part in the committee’s decision, he said.

“We wanted to make sure the compensation was more in line with what we felt was something that would encourage and inspire a diversity of candidates to come forward in that space.”

During the assessment process, committee members met with each of Windsor’s 10 councilors and the mayor to discuss their roles, time commitments, resourcing, and more. The committee also sent out a public questionnaire and held two open sessions via video conference on Jan. 24 and 27 to allow residents to provide input. The two meetings were attended by only five people, four of whom spoke.

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In addition, the committee contracted a compensation consultant, Gallagher Benefit Services (Canada) Group Inc., to provide benchmark data from comparable municipalities, and to provide compensation guidance and expertise. Consultant-collected data showed that out of 13 municipalities analyzed, Windsor’s mayor had the fourth-highest remuneration in 2021 at $199,167. The average was $136,049, with some majors — Windsor’s major excluded — receiving regional government remuneration and/or additional agency/board honorarium on top of the base salary. Windsor had the fifth-largest population size of the municipalities analyzed.

Looking at the same 13 municipalities, Windsor’s councilors were middle of the pack with the seventh-highest compensation at $46,898. The average was $46,121.

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“Drawing direct comparisons presents challenges as no one municipality is exactly the same as another, and there are many variables that influence the overall compensation package,” states the report from Gallagher. It goes on to say that “there is no easy answer to set the level of remuneration for elected officials.”

In a series of meetings in late February and early March, the committee met and discussed the information gathered, then came to its consensus.

The other members are Mila Lucio, vice-president of human resources at Green Shield, and Frazier Fathers, a local researcher and consultant.

It will be up to city council to decide whether to execute the committee’s recommendations.

The current committee also recommends a future citizens committee be agreed at the mid-point of the 2023 to 2026 council term. That committee should “receive a broader mandate and time to explore” several additional topics, including establishing a full-time council; a committee compensation model that “balances the need for councilors to stand for positions while ensuring inverse financial incentives do not drive committee membership”; the impact of mandatory non-council committees like BIAs on councilor workload; an assessment of staff time and support for councilors and the mayor in the context of workload and the impacts on fair compensation; and a ward boundary review to determine whether adjustments to boundaries or number of councilors are needed to balance workloads.

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This is the second consecutive citizens committee to conclude the largest and council compensation should rise annually. In 2018, another citizens committee grappled with raising compensation for the first time since 2003 while also taking into account the impact of the federal government eliminating the tax-free allowance on one-third of council pay, and simplifying a system that paid councilors and the higher base salaries, plus extra money for sitting on various boards and committees.

The resulting change for the incoming council that year was a base salary of about $195,000 for the mayor and $45,000 for councillors, no matter what committees they were assigned. While the major ended up with a $29,000 raise, his take-home from him actually dropped because of a tax hit. For councillors, their $6,100 raise was largely offset by a $4,000 tax hit.

Their new salaries were to rise based on the annual increase given to the city’s non-union employees.

Another recommendation from the 2018 review was that a new council compensation committee be struck at around the midway point of the 2018-2022 term, though the pandemic pushed that back to the end of 2021.

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