By Rhonda Massad
At Beaconsfield’s regular public meeting on December 16, mayor and council notified taxpayers that they intends to increase their own salaries, early in the New Year. Pending a unanimous vote to approve the hike, the mayor’s salary will increase by 25%, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2015, and councilors will receive a 39% increase.
They announced the increase to mixed reviews from residents who attended the December budget meeting. As reported last week in The Suburban, Beaconsfield’s portion of the city’s 2015 budget is projected to rise 4.73%.
The city has held the average Beaconsfield residential property tax bill rise to 1.25% next year, by dipping into its surplus from previous years.
According to Councilor Pierre Demers, much more is demanded from elected officials than a decade ago. Though Beaconsfield council has voted itself small increases in pay over the past several years, its last a substantial adjustment was in 2007.
“There is never a good time to ask for an increase,” Demers acknowledged during the council meeting. “The optics will never be good. This increase will bring us to the middle of the pack of cities with comparable populations.
Demers suggested that it would be sensible in future to adopt automatic increases based a formula on which would take into consideration factors such as inflation. That would spare councilors from recurring remuneration debates.
Mayor Georges Bourelle told residents that the council proposed the increase almost immediately after the election but wanted to give residents a chance to see what the new team could do, prior to voting itself a pay increase.
Resident Cynthia Aboud was unsure about the increase when she arrived at the meeting but after the presentation was comfortable with the increase.
“I think that council presented a well thought-out argument for the increase in remuneration. While the timing may not be optimal, as a Beaconsfield resident, I have no problem with the proposed increase” Aboud said in an interview after the meeting.
While most residents who spoke during the budget meeting did not take issue with council’s need to increase its monthly allotment, most objected to the amount of the hike.
“Who gets a 39% increase in their paycheque? Certainly not me,” resident Nikki Hainault told the panel. “We have had a bad year and we are looking to another hard one coming up. This raise is out of proportion to what is realistic.”
Resident Ron Belair also termed the raise excessive.
“What have they really done to deserve this increase?” he asked. “Where were all these raise ideas when these candidates were running, 12 months ago? They knew the salary when they signed up. There was no mention of this increase in their campaign flyers. In fact, they all promised to keep taxes steady.”
“The raise is too much in a time of austerity, when everyone is trying to cut back,” Belair concluded.