Hamilton councillors eliminate tax-free salaries

News Aug 10, 2015 by Kevin Werner Stoney Creek News

After years of hedging on their salaries, Hamilton councillors ended the practice of retaining one third of their salaries tax free.

In a close 8 to 5 vote at the Aug. 10 general issues committee meeting, council members approved a staff recommendation to eliminate a policy that had been in place for at least the last 15 years. The decision means councillors will add an additional $434,245 onto the 2016 budget.

“I have trouble with this (one-third, tax free),” said Ancaster councillor Lloyd Ferguson.  “I know it’s all about transparency, but we can’t afford it.”

Stoney Creek councillor Doug Conley was equally opposed to the plan to burden homeowners.

“Why would we put $434,245 onto taxpayers?” he said.

Flamborough councillor Judi Partridge said keeping the tax-free portion of their salaries doesn’t mean councillors would have received an increase to their salaries. Instead, said Mike Zegarac, corporate services general manager, the money would go to the province, allowing councillors to continue receiving their current salaries. The increase will not benefit councillors immediately, but only when they end their service as politicians and receive a higher pension.

 The mayor will now receive $171,441, an increase from $127,284.86 while councillors will get $90,385, a jump from $72,640.80.

Partridge said she “didn’t care” if the policy was retained or not.

In 2001, the province allowed municipalities to eliminate the one-third tax free portion from councillors’ salaries. A number of municipalities have scrapped the policy, including Burlington.

During every council term, politicians are required to vote on whether or not to keep the policy.

During the 2006 mayoral campaign, Eisenberger proposed to eliminate the policy it, but in 2007, councillors voted to keep it. Politicians also voted in 2011 to continue the policy.

Ward 4 councillor Sam Merulla, who supported removing the tax-free portion, said the policy was introduced when politicians were part-time and didn’t receive mileage or office expenses while doing their jobs.

Changing the tax-free portion of their salaries also impacts politicians’ pensions under the Ontario Municipalities Employees Retirement System by increasing the amount of taxable earnings used to calculate pensions.

Each councillor will collect a higher pension receiving $1,453, while the mayor receives $3,074 for each year of service on council.

“This is all about enhanced pensions,” said Ferguson.

Those in support of eliminating the tax-free policy were Mayor Eisenberger, Stoney Creek councillor Maria Pearson, Mountain councillors Scott Duvall, Tom Jackson, Terry Whitehead, Ward 1 councillor Aidan Johnson, Ward 2 councillor Jason Farr and Merulla.

Councillors in support of the status quo were Partridge, Conley, Ferguson, Stoney Creek councillor Brenda Johnson and Flamborough councillor Robert Pasuta.

Councillors Arlene VanderBeek and Chad Collins were absent for the vote.

Politicians will vote on the recommendation at their Aug. 14 council meeting.

 

Hamilton councillors eliminate tax-free salaries

News Aug 10, 2015 by Kevin Werner Stoney Creek News

After years of hedging on their salaries, Hamilton councillors ended the practice of retaining one third of their salaries tax free.

In a close 8 to 5 vote at the Aug. 10 general issues committee meeting, council members approved a staff recommendation to eliminate a policy that had been in place for at least the last 15 years. The decision means councillors will add an additional $434,245 onto the 2016 budget.

“I have trouble with this (one-third, tax free),” said Ancaster councillor Lloyd Ferguson.  “I know it’s all about transparency, but we can’t afford it.”

Stoney Creek councillor Doug Conley was equally opposed to the plan to burden homeowners.

“Why would we put $434,245 onto taxpayers?” he said.

Flamborough councillor Judi Partridge said keeping the tax-free portion of their salaries doesn’t mean councillors would have received an increase to their salaries. Instead, said Mike Zegarac, corporate services general manager, the money would go to the province, allowing councillors to continue receiving their current salaries. The increase will not benefit councillors immediately, but only when they end their service as politicians and receive a higher pension.

 The mayor will now receive $171,441, an increase from $127,284.86 while councillors will get $90,385, a jump from $72,640.80.

Partridge said she “didn’t care” if the policy was retained or not.

In 2001, the province allowed municipalities to eliminate the one-third tax free portion from councillors’ salaries. A number of municipalities have scrapped the policy, including Burlington.

During every council term, politicians are required to vote on whether or not to keep the policy.

During the 2006 mayoral campaign, Eisenberger proposed to eliminate the policy it, but in 2007, councillors voted to keep it. Politicians also voted in 2011 to continue the policy.

Ward 4 councillor Sam Merulla, who supported removing the tax-free portion, said the policy was introduced when politicians were part-time and didn’t receive mileage or office expenses while doing their jobs.

Changing the tax-free portion of their salaries also impacts politicians’ pensions under the Ontario Municipalities Employees Retirement System by increasing the amount of taxable earnings used to calculate pensions.

Each councillor will collect a higher pension receiving $1,453, while the mayor receives $3,074 for each year of service on council.

“This is all about enhanced pensions,” said Ferguson.

Those in support of eliminating the tax-free policy were Mayor Eisenberger, Stoney Creek councillor Maria Pearson, Mountain councillors Scott Duvall, Tom Jackson, Terry Whitehead, Ward 1 councillor Aidan Johnson, Ward 2 councillor Jason Farr and Merulla.

Councillors in support of the status quo were Partridge, Conley, Ferguson, Stoney Creek councillor Brenda Johnson and Flamborough councillor Robert Pasuta.

Councillors Arlene VanderBeek and Chad Collins were absent for the vote.

Politicians will vote on the recommendation at their Aug. 14 council meeting.

 

Hamilton councillors eliminate tax-free salaries

News Aug 10, 2015 by Kevin Werner Stoney Creek News

After years of hedging on their salaries, Hamilton councillors ended the practice of retaining one third of their salaries tax free.

In a close 8 to 5 vote at the Aug. 10 general issues committee meeting, council members approved a staff recommendation to eliminate a policy that had been in place for at least the last 15 years. The decision means councillors will add an additional $434,245 onto the 2016 budget.

“I have trouble with this (one-third, tax free),” said Ancaster councillor Lloyd Ferguson.  “I know it’s all about transparency, but we can’t afford it.”

Stoney Creek councillor Doug Conley was equally opposed to the plan to burden homeowners.

“Why would we put $434,245 onto taxpayers?” he said.

Flamborough councillor Judi Partridge said keeping the tax-free portion of their salaries doesn’t mean councillors would have received an increase to their salaries. Instead, said Mike Zegarac, corporate services general manager, the money would go to the province, allowing councillors to continue receiving their current salaries. The increase will not benefit councillors immediately, but only when they end their service as politicians and receive a higher pension.

 The mayor will now receive $171,441, an increase from $127,284.86 while councillors will get $90,385, a jump from $72,640.80.

Partridge said she “didn’t care” if the policy was retained or not.

In 2001, the province allowed municipalities to eliminate the one-third tax free portion from councillors’ salaries. A number of municipalities have scrapped the policy, including Burlington.

During every council term, politicians are required to vote on whether or not to keep the policy.

During the 2006 mayoral campaign, Eisenberger proposed to eliminate the policy it, but in 2007, councillors voted to keep it. Politicians also voted in 2011 to continue the policy.

Ward 4 councillor Sam Merulla, who supported removing the tax-free portion, said the policy was introduced when politicians were part-time and didn’t receive mileage or office expenses while doing their jobs.

Changing the tax-free portion of their salaries also impacts politicians’ pensions under the Ontario Municipalities Employees Retirement System by increasing the amount of taxable earnings used to calculate pensions.

Each councillor will collect a higher pension receiving $1,453, while the mayor receives $3,074 for each year of service on council.

“This is all about enhanced pensions,” said Ferguson.

Those in support of eliminating the tax-free policy were Mayor Eisenberger, Stoney Creek councillor Maria Pearson, Mountain councillors Scott Duvall, Tom Jackson, Terry Whitehead, Ward 1 councillor Aidan Johnson, Ward 2 councillor Jason Farr and Merulla.

Councillors in support of the status quo were Partridge, Conley, Ferguson, Stoney Creek councillor Brenda Johnson and Flamborough councillor Robert Pasuta.

Councillors Arlene VanderBeek and Chad Collins were absent for the vote.

Politicians will vote on the recommendation at their Aug. 14 council meeting.