Nova Scotia

Halifax mayor pledges to cut $190K salary during pandemic crisis

Halifax's mayor and a city councillor say they are taking voluntary pay cuts as the municipality grapples with huge COVID-19 financial problems that have led it to slash nearly 1,500 jobs.

Mike Savage, Coun. Richard Zurawski announce cuts after Halifax slashes workforce

Mayor Mike Savage's pay cut will cost him about $3,167.87 a month. (CBC)

Halifax's mayor and a city councillor say they are taking voluntary pay cuts as the municipality grapples with huge COVID-19 financial problems that have led it to slash nearly 1,500 jobs.

Mayor Mike Savage said Thursday he told staff in late March to start setting aside 20 per cent of his pay, a move that will be re-evaluated on July 1. 

The mayor said he never intended to talk about it, but was asked directly about politicans' pay while speaking on The Rick Howe Show on News 95.7.

"I don't want this to be a big deal," he said in an interview with CBC. "I don't expect anybody else to do it, I just feel for me personally it felt like the right thing to do in light of the fact that many people were losing business and losing jobs."

Savage was set to earn $190,072.43 in 2020. Savage's office said he'll take a 20 per cent reduction of his gross salary, which means a drop of about $3,167 a month.

He said he'll have the choice of donating the money to charity or giving it back to the city.

"I will probably give mine to charity, a charity I will determine at some point in time," he said. "I'm not trying to make a point. It's just something I felt — for me — that I should do as leader of the city."

Earlier in the week, council voted to move the deadline for property and commercial taxes to June 1. The deferral is putting a strain on the city's revenues, which depend largely on the taxes. 

Because of the loss, Halifax is cutting 1,480 positions, including seasonal workers who won't be hired back. Nearly all summer programming, including camps, is also cancelled. 

Halifax's ​​​​CAO, Jacques Dubé, said the municipality is trying to avoid further layoffs, and is asking anyone who can afford to pay their taxes sooner to do so.

Coun. Richard Zurawski said he will give back 10 per cent of his take-home pay for the remainder of his term. (Haydn Watters/CBC)

Savage said while demand is high for his time during the pandemic, he no longer has to attend events, which previously took up a lot of time.

"I like getting out and seeing people and doing events, so we don't have those," he said. "It's just a different kind of work than I had before."

Coun. Richard Zurawski said he, too, will give back some of his $92,258.09 salary. He'll be writing a cheque worth 10 per cent of his take-home pay to put back in the city coffers.

"We're in the process of trying to balance the city books, we're looking at cutting jobs, we're looking at an extended crisis," he said. "I have constituents who are struggling. It's not a hard decision for me to make."

Zurawksi said he's committed to doing so throughout the remainder of his current term on council, which ends in October. 

"It's the least I could do if it saves one job. Things are tough all around."

He said he hopes his contributions will inspire other people who are continuing to work to do the same. 

"We're lucky to be able to do that," Zurawksi said.

"We're all in this together. This isn't going to go away any time soon. There are many people — the media included — who have substantial salaries and there are many people who do not who are going to be affected."

About the Author

Carolyn Ray

Videojournalist

Carolyn Ray is a videojournalist who has reported out of three provinces and two territories, and is now based in Halifax. You can reach her at Carolyn.Ray@cbc.ca

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