Councillors to vote for pay rise

ROCKHAMPTON Regional councillors could make a decision as early as next Tuesday whether or not they deserve a pay rise.

It emerged yesterday that the Queensland Remuneration Tribunal has given councils and councillors the power to determine if they will increase their base pay rate by 3%.

But before ratepayers start groaning, Mayor Brad Carter points out that when the reduction of a special amalgamation allowance is factored in, councillors will be worse off even if they vote themselves an increase.

Compared to when councillors first came into office, Cr Carter says by mid-next year they would have lost about $4000 in reduced amalgamation allowance, while the proposed pay rise equates to about $2700 – a net loss of $1300.

The Tribunal determined a modest increase of 3% was appropriate from January 1.

“It will be up to individual councils to take into consideration such things as the current economic environment, the financial position of the council concerned and the expectations of the local community when considering the remuneration levels to apply in their council during 2010,” it says.

Many councillors talk about the far heavier work load since amalgamation, however there are some in the community that have little sympathy for them, having been angered by the large rate hikes introduced during the past couple of years and the current good levels of pay.

With a pay rise the mayor will be able to earn about $158,000 a year, compared to his current limit of $156,895; the deputy mayor would be able to earn more than $106,500 and councillors close to $96,500.

Cr Carter said councillors hadn’t had a pay rise since the March 2008 election, but had lost part of their amalgamation allowance and would lose more from next July.

He said the argument for the allowance had been that councillors would do more hard work in the first year following amalgamation with the burden reducing in following years.

Though councillors knew before the election the allowance would be reduced, it hadn’t proved to be the case that the workload had dropped.

In his submission to the tribunal in September he argued the allowance should be scrapped and councillors should retain their current pay level.

He also said committee chairs should be better paid accordingly.

The Tribunal didn’t adopt either of these requests.

“It’s a reasonable result and very prudent in the current economic climate,” Cr Carter said.

He said the matter could come before council at its next meeting on Tuesday, or early next year.

Six councillors – Cr Carter, Greg Belz, Graeme Brady, Sandra O’Brien, Rose Swadling and Tony Williams – met with the Tribunal when it visited Rockhampton on September 22.

The Morning Bulletin was unable to contact all of these councillors yesterday afternoon as they were in a workshop.

However speaking before the workshop, Cr Williams said he had not called for a pay rise.

“I wouldn’t be in favour of a rise that would impact on ratepayers,” Cr Williams said.

He said he told the Tribunal’s officers that councillors should retain their current level of overall pay.

Last week it was revealed councillors were reimbursed for more than $80,000 that they’d racked up in personal expenses fulfilling their duties.

The expenses for councillors from both Mackay and Toowoomba appears to be well above $150,000.

Cr Williams said much of his fees were incurred so he could fulfil his role as treasurer of the CQ Local Government Association.

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