Imagine, for a moment, the angst you’d feel if on a public stage your salary were being debated.
Your salary is so often tied to your worth. The feeling can be deflating.
The mere mention of money, even in a private setting, is a topic that’s often taboo. How much and how little we have can consume our mindset and steer our lives off track.
The current state of our province’s struggling economy, record high unemployment and Christmas coming around the corner has many Albertans shielding themselves from the topic.
American business magnate, investor and philanthropist Warren Buffet once said: “I will tell you the secret to getting rich on Wall Street. You try to be greedy when others are fearful. And you try to be fearful when others are greedy.” Buffet is known as one of the most successful investors in the world and has a net worth of $82 billion USD.
At the town council meeting on November 12 the Mayor and Council Remuneration Task Force presented their findings on council’s compensation. The group compared Cochrane’s council’s salaries to those of comparable-sized communities and revealed that our councillors are “underpaid”. The public stage was set and council was in the hot seat.
Task force member Ben Clarke told council that while Mayor Jeff Genung’s salary was a bit above average, councillors salaries fared below the average. Clarke pointed to Airdrie, Fort Saskatchewan, Okotoks, Leduc and Spruce Grove. The average councillor salary in those communities was $40,832, while Cochrane’s was $33,600. Clarke said Cochrane's councillers were "underpaid".
Following that meeting council directed town administration to bring back a revised policy. The policy was discussed on Monday (Nov. 25) and, as money usually does, quickly divided council.
Coun. Alex Reed was the first to speak up and was quick to condemn the proceedings. After the meeting he told the Cochrane Eagle that discussing a potential councillor salary increase was insensitive to the current economic climate. He said the “self-serving” debate by council showed a complete disregard for members of the community.
Coun. Tara McFadden spoke out at the meeting and admitted that the job she signed up for this term isn’t the same as it has been in previous terms. She said the workload, population of constituents, and expectations of the public has increased. She invited councillors to think beyond today and be strategic on how they’re running their organization.
Council’s suggested salary increase of $70,308 makes up only about one per cent of the Town’s $70 million budget.
It’s fair to assume that today’s "underpaid" councillors are the result of not thinking beyond today by previous councils. How else could their salary fall so far behind councillors in the other communities mentioned. How does this oversight, or misstep, reflect on our community and the value we place in the hands of our elected officials? It’s only right that they be fairly compensated like their counterparts in other communities.
It’s understandable that our province’s dismal economic forecast is casting a shadow on rational thought around this imbalance, but it’s time we get a bit greedy when others are fearful.