Councillors vote to boost their salaries and scrap tax exemption

Despite concerns from a citizen group, Hamilton city councillors have followed through on an earlier vote to change the way that they pay themselves.
As of Jan. 1, 2016, city councillors will make one third more in salary but pay full taxes. (Terry Asma/CBC)

Despite concerns from a citizen group, Hamilton city councillors have followed through on an earlier vote to change the way that they pay themselves.

City council voted Friday to scrap the current system, where one-third of their salary is exempted from taxes. Instead, they'll boost their salary by roughly one-third, which politicians in favour say is more transparent and basically the same pay.

But Viv Saunders, a Stoney Creek resident who is also fundraising to take some councillors to court over election expenses, says councillors win in the long run because their pensions increase.

"We would like to see information being provided to the public that is inclusive of the exact benefits/costs with respect to pension increases along with other enhancements to your benefit packages," Saunders told council in a letter from the Lakewood Beach Community Council.

Not all councillors were in favour of the change at Friday's council meeting. Coun. Lloyd Ferguson of Ancaster even asked if councillors could opt out of receiving the full salary and stay at one-third tax free. But the move passed 10-5.

Coun. Sam Merulla of Ward 4 suggested that Ferguson and others who have issues with the change should "opt out of the pension altogether."

The change will cost local property taxpayers more — about $434,245 per year — since the full salaries will now come from the tax levy.

The change means councillors will earn $90,385 per year, up from $72,640.80. The mayor will earn $171,441, up from $127,284.86.

The change takes effect on Jan. 1, 2016.

Also at Friday's council meeting, councillors voted to have the city's naming subcommittee look at naming facilities after Hamilton natives Martin Short and Eugene Levy.

Who voted in favour of the change:

Aidan Johnson (Ward 1), Jason Farr (2), Sam Merulla (4), Chad Collins (5), Tom Jackson (6), Scott Duvall (7), Terry Whitehead (8), Mayor Fred Eisenberger, Maria Pearson (10), Doug Conley (9)

Who voted against it:

Lloyd Ferguson (12), Arlene VanderBeek (13), Judi Partridge (15), Robert Pasuta (14), Brenda Johnson (11)