You Get What You Pay For

wages, Kingston, OntarioHow much is good political representation worth? In Kingston, it could be $27,500 a year for a councillor, and $84,500 for the mayor.

In case you missed it somewhere, a citizens’ committee is reviewing the pay that city councillors and the Mayor receive for doing their jobs. Currently, councillors earn $18,730 each, plus travel and work expenses, while the Mayor earns about $74,400 plus travel expenses per year. The cost for a city councillor means that it isn’t considered a full-time job; and despite the decent salary for the mayoralty, Mayor Harvey Rosen doesn’t consider it a full-time job.

The citizens’ committee has considered raising council salaries by about 47 per cent and the mayor’s salary by about 14 per cent. The final recommendation will go to council, who will decide how much to boost salaries for the next group of councillors and whether to phase in the increase over a four-year period.

Although 47 per cent and 14 per cent sound like large increases (when was the last time you had a 47 per cent spike in your salary?), reporting those numbers on their own is a tad misleading.

If councillors each received the proposed $8,770 increase, the salary jump would increase the city’s operational budget by $105,240. Add in the $10,100 being proposed for the mayor and the operational budget, which directly affects taxes, rises by $115,240.

Each $1.5 million increase in budget equates to a one per cent increase in taxes, so $115,240 is about a 0.08 per cent tax increase. Multiply that percentage by the average household tax bill (about $2,700), and the average tax increase per household to pay for the new council salaries is $2.16.

The bigger question, and one that can’t be quantified as easily, is whether the increase in salary will result in better quality representation. As the October 8th meeting minutes note indicates, committee members felt the Mayor’s proposed salary “may not be able to attract high quality candidates,” but the increase had to be sold to the public.

Maybe the answer for Kingston is you get what you pay for. Thanks to quinn.anya for the up close and personal photo of Sir Wilfred Laurier.  Cross posted in part at Meet Press.

6 thoughts on “You Get What You Pay For

  • And maybe that’s not the answer for Kingston…

    High quality candidates aren’t attracted by the money, but rather public service. Altruism, I hear it’s real whiz-bang.

    And just to follow the logic of the article, as we currently aren’t paying “more”, does that mean the current mayor & council are not high quality candidates? Because they came onboard willingly, despite the claimed low wages.

    The writer sounds in favour of this – is someone thinking of the future?

  • This is a difficult question to answer. Fair compensation for elected officials could help attract better talent, and direct their attention away from side projects (read: other paying jobs). That said, even if we increased their salaries I doubt many would give up their business dealings. Look at professors at Queen’s. In comparison to Councillors, Profs rake in a mint, yet many of them do private consulting or have business tie ins that are not a part of their position at the university.

    There are tons of ways to tackle this. Pay them based on their performance. Pay them top dollar and make them quit their other jobs. And although it goes against the spirit of this post, pay them nothing and see where that lands us.

    • That Guy,
      You make an interesting point. And to answer your question, no I’m not interested in taking a run at city council.
      I think, though, that offering more for the posts may attract people who are interested in public service, but, as Harvey mentions, not interested in doing so at the cost of their comfortable salaries. Maybe you’re right, That Guy — maybe the lower wages do actually attract the right people to council, those who want to be there because they truly believe in public service, not because they want some cash. It’s a valid point and one I will consider as this debate continues.
      But what would happen if we made Kingston city councillors all full-time? Taxpayers would have to pay more, but would the representation become better? I think, ultimately, whatever decision is made has to ensure that Kingstonians receive the best representation possible at city hall.

  • As someone whom will be registering to run for city council in 2010, my reasoning was the usual ” I think I can do a better job” rather than the salary. Even at the proposed rate most people would stiil need a part time job. When this came out about one month ago, i really did not know how much money they made. I have been planing to run since the summer. I really doubt most people do it for the money.

  • If this change makes the slightest bit of difference in the calibre of representation on city council, I’ll eat my hat.

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