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<p lang="en-US">The newly sworn in Windsor town council pose for a photo following the ceremony on Oct. 25, 2016. Pictured are, from left, Laurie Murley, John Bregante, Mayor Anna Allen, Shelley Bibby, and Jim Ivey.</p>
For more news on Windsor Town Council, stay on this website. - Colin Chisholm

WINDSOR, N.S. – Recent changes to how the government taxes municipal councillors means the amount that councillors take home is expected to go down.

To compensate for that, Windsor town council adopted a recommendation to raise their salaries to offset the lost income to ensure no net loss in pay.

While there won’t be any net raise in pay, it will cost the town more overall.

“The federal government has changed the rules in terms of taxation,” chief administrative officer Louis Coutinho said. “In the past, only two-thirds of council’s salaries were taxed.”

Countinho said the intent of the previous tax exemption was to compensate municipal councillors who were incurring expenses for their job.

The Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities has encouraged all municipalities to adjust their salaries to compensate for the tax changes.

When the increased salaries take effect on Jan. 1, 2019, the first three months will see an added expense of $2,700 for the town, which Coutinho said can likely be absorbed in the budget without too much concern.

However, the impact for the following fiscal year is closer to $11,000, which would need to be an item in 2019/2020 operating budget.

Deputy Mayor Laurie Murley, who made the motion to accept the recommendation, said she was concerned about whether or not the role of councillor would be affordable for people were looking to run for council in the future.

“Even with the increase I will be paying quite a bit more in taxes, so for me it’s not going to help much,” Murley said. “But for anyone running in the future, they’ll know these numbers and will be able to make an educated decision as to whether or not it’s financially feasible for them to do this.”

Coun. Jim Ivey said talking about council salaries is “never an easy conversation to have,” but added that the increase “seems practical.”

All councillors voted in favour of the salary increase.

Total salaries prior to the raise cost the town approximately $97,000.

The mayor’s salary for the current year is $28,268, the deputy mayor’s salary is $18,920 and councillors receive $16,714.

West Hants council also getting pay bump

Earlier this year, the council of West Hants also agreed to increase their salary to compensate for the tax changes – meaning they’ll have the same net pay they currently receive.

Warden Abraham Zebian was the only person to vote against the motion, saying councillors don’t get into the job for the money, but added that those who may be single parents or facing tough times should also be able to represent their communities comfortably.

West Hants Warden Abraham Zebian
West Hants Warden Abraham Zebian

“I was the one vote that voted against it,” Zebian said. “I do respect council and I understand wanting to make municipal politics appealing to someone wanting to do it.”

“It makes sense to have the pay represent the amount of work that goes into it.”

Zebian’s salary will increase by approximately $4,000.

West Hants council’s pay increase will also come into effect in 2019. Zebian said the rise in salaries shouldn’t have too large of an impact on the budget, approximately $30,000 in increased spending.

“It wouldn’t be our intention to increase taxes to pay for that,” he said.

Auditors give town’s finances clean bill of health

A final audit report was submitted to the Town of Windsor's audit committee on July 24, which went through the town’s detailed financial statements for the financial year ending March 31, 2018.

Highlights from the report include the following:

- Town’s revenue was consistent with the budget at $10.3 million versus a budgeted number of $10.2 million. That’s down from $11.2 million from the previous year, which is mainly the result of a shortfall in grants.

- Expenditures were just under $7.7 million, for an annual surplus of $2,650,019.

- Auditors said the financial health of the town’s coffers remains strong.

Council voted to accept the auditor’s report.

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