Big Lakes refuses pay cut

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Big Lakes County council is not ready to take a cut in pay, even during tough economic times in the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the regular council meeting May 13, a motion by North Gilwood – Triangle Councillor Ken Matthews to cut daily honouria for attending meetings by 10 per cent was defeated in a 4-4 tie vote.

Matthews recommended the cut from $250 at a special budget meeting April 29.

He was supported in favour in the vote by Prairie Echo – Salt Prairie Councillor David Marx, Enilda – Big Meadow Councillor Donald Bissell and High Prairie – East Banana Belt Councillor Don Charrois.

Reeve Richard Simard, Kinuso Councillor Ken Killeen, Faust Councillor Robert Nygaard and South Sunset House – Gilwood Councillor Ann Stewart opposed.

Grouard Councillor Fern Welch was absent from the meeting.

“If anyone wants to take a cut, pay some back to the County,” Killeen says.

“But I’m not willing to do that.”

Stewart spoke against a cut.

“We haven’t had a raise in seven years,” Stewart says.

Matthews sparked initial discussion at the meeting April 29 when the budget was adopted.

“Everyone else is taken a hit; I don’t see why we can’t take a hit,” Matthews says.

He notes many people have lost jobs or had hours or pay cut during the pandemic.

Just two of nine council members disagreed with Matthews at that meeting.

“We’re getting ]pretty] near nothing now,” Killeen says.

“We get peanuts, anyway.”

The adopted budget freezes planned wage increases for staff and rolls back the cost of living allowance granted in January.

Before the vote May 13, Matthews also suggested council review honouaria at its organizational meeting in October.

A total of $196,975 was paid for honourariums in 2019 for a council of nine and two at-large members for a total of 788 combined meetings, says Heather Nanninga, director of corporate services.

She says a 10 percent reduction would save $19,700 in a normal year.

A 15 per cent cut would save $29,950 in a normal year.

Fewer meetings are being held for council members during the pandemic.

“Given that meeting attendance is already expected to be lower in 2020, savings will be difficult to estimate,” Nanninga says.

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