Cobourg council does about-face on raises

By Cecilia Nasmith

The raise Cobourg council voted for itself last week at committee-of-the-whole was defeated this week by a recorded four-to-three vote.

Council approval of the raise last week was reached after lengthy debate and a presentation by Paul Pagnuelo on behalf of the Cobourg Taxpayers Association (in front of a large and approving contingent in the gallery), not to mention extensive studies in 2018.

The motion defeated this week called for the raise to bring the mayor's salary to $48,100, the deputy mayor's to $38,480 and each councillor's to $33,670 effective Jan. 1, 2020, providing it's approved as part of the 2020 budget process. It would have included Consumers Price Index adjustments each July and a full review the third year of each council term.

“Depending on how the budget goes, we may have to cut back or even take another look at this,” Deputy Mayor Suzanne Seguin allowed in putting forward the motion this week.

Last week, Mayor John Henderson and Councillors Brian Darling and Aaron Burchat did express misgivings.

Darling voiced the concern that such a relatively high payment for council might make it more difficult to recruit the volunteer members who work so diligently on the town's vital advisory committees. Burchat wondered if a phased-in approach might be better, recalling council's recent months-long effort to hold a tax increase down to 2% during the budget process. Henderson suggested that perhaps more public feedback might be in order.

The comments emerged out of a thorough debate that contrasted to this week's much shorter, terser consideration of Seguin's motion. Though there was some discussion of whether to increase payments for some of the boards that are paid (such as Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority), treasurer Ian Davey pointed out that the rates on some of these are not set by council.

And there was very little discussion directed at council remuneration.

As the vote was called, Darling asked for a recorded vote. He was joined by Henderson, Burchat and Councillor Nicole Beatty in defeating it, with Seguin and Councillors Emily Chorley and Adam Bureau voting in favour.