Edmonton councillors up for 5.35-per-cent pay raise

EDMONTON – City council members have until next week to decide if they want to accept what some admit will be a controversial 5.35-per-cent salary increase.

The hike, based on the rise in Alberta’s average weekly wage between September 2010 and September 2011, will boost annual pay for the mayor’s job to $158,813, while councillors are eligible to receive $87,955.

Political earnings are one-third tax-free, as are monthly vehicle allowances of $1,158 for the mayor and $578 for councillors. Those won’t increase this year.

“We’re going to get caught with this, whatever it is,” Coun. Ed Gibbons said Tuesday.

“You phone us at 5.35 per cent, you don’t phone us when it’s six per cent, but I’m not one to interfere with the process.”

He plans to accept his full raise, calculating that for his six-day work week, the money works out to roughly an extra $2 an hour, following a process for council raises used since 2001.

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“We’re going to get beat up on it. Some will take it, some won’t take it,” Gibbons said.

“I don’t want to interfere with the formula. I don’t want to vote on what I make. This is totally neutral.”

Last year, Mayor Stephen Mandel and eight councillors refused all or a portion of a 4.6-per-cent pay boost, or asked to have money donated to charity.

Mandel hasn’t taken a raise for several years in a row.

Council members must indicate whether they want a lower-than-possible salary by Jan. 18, a city spokesman said.

Coun. Karen Leibovici, who didn’t accept any increase in 2011, said she hasn’t decided what to do this year.

“When you look at it, the economy is doing better this year, and I think that’s one of the reasons I didn’t take, the last couple of years, all of it.”

An outside committee, whose members have yet to be appointed, is scheduled to look at council compensation and make recommendations next fall.

Any changes will take effect after the next civic election in 2013.

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