How much money should Guelph Councillors make?
That is the question a group of citizens will be asked to answer over the next couple of months.
It is that time in the term of Council, that a Citizen Review Committee is established to review the compensation of members of Council prior to the beginning of a new term. The recommendations of the Citizen Review Committee will apply to the new term of Council – not the existing term.
This has been our practice for several terms and it is a good one. Information about Council compensation and the policies that govern it can be found on guelph.ca on the webpage – Council Remuneration.
However, it is not the only question that needs to be answered.
Another one is – what should they be compensated for?
It has previously been suggested Councillors should be paid for their attendance at meetings – a very simple form of performance pay (i.e. they must show up). Certainly, many boards compensate their directors for attending meetings in addition to an annual stipend.
Many boards also recognize that not all directors have the same responsibilities. For instance, those that take on the responsibility of chairing a committee often receive additional compensation. Perhaps the Chairs of Standing Committees should be similarly recognized.
There are also a number of Agencies, Boards and Committees that require the appointment of a member of Council. Some members take on little or no additional commitments while others accept several appointments. Perhaps there should be a financial incentive to ensure a fair distribution of workload between Councillors.
All of these approaches could be considered by the Citizen Review Committee.
Beyond the current process to set compensation for 2014-2018 Council term there is more to discuss.
A few members of Council feel strongly that the commitment they are being asked to make is equivalent to a full-time position and should be compensated accordingly. One member has stated publicly that he will not run for Council unless it becomes a fulltime position. Council has directed staff to report back on a process to examine the question of full-time pay for full-time Councillors. The intent is to consider this potential for the 2018-2022 term of Council.
This begs the same question – what should they be compensated for?
There are many trends impacting the role of members of Council. The Citizen Review Committee is being asked to consider compensation based on the status quo.
But how might the changes we are making to the way we do business as a local government shift the role of members of Council in the future? Their core governance role will remain intact but some traditional roles may no longer be relevant.
Open Government will promote direct access of residents with departments that deliver a service. For instance, there is a smart phone app that allows a resident to take a photograph of a pothole, send it to public works and receive confirmation that a work order has been issued. Members of Council have traditionally played a bit of a “gatekeeper” role at City Hall helping residents get service. As the need for this role diminishes, how will it change community expectations? Maybe it doesn’t.
Social media is both a powerful engagement tool and sometimes a time consuming one. What are the community’s expectations of City Hall versus individual members of Council when it comes to the use of social media? Is the use of social media a core responsibility of members of Council? Should they be compensated for their use of social media? What is good value for taxpayers?
New communication technologies are also changing the expectations of the availability of members of Council.
Staff engagement of the community in local decision making is increasing. Are members of Council expected to attend all engagement meetings or are they considered part of the Administration’s work to develop the best recommendation for Council? Should members of Council be compensated for attending these public meetings and, if so, how many is considered good value for taxpayers?
And what new strategic roles might we anticipate for members of Council as we continue to build an enterprise-based approach to managing City Hall?
Lots of questions – and probably many more – without easy or obvious answers but ones I believe we will need to consider sooner rather than later.