WINCHESTER – The North Dundas council is working on its 2022 budget. Each municipal department has kicked off the budget planning with their individual wish list. Councillors will be going through each department list to ensure it is affordable and necessary. There will be several meetings in February when budget line items will be looked at.

Meanwhile, North Dundas staff have had their yearly salary increase put on hold at the Jan. 25 council meeting until councillors can look at its remuneration bylaw.

In 2012, the municipality passed a bylaw that streamlines yearly salary increases. Instead of having to negotiate any salary increase each January, every year, North Dundas staff would receive an increase tied to the inflation rate detailed in the annual Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Traditionally, the increase has been between 1 and 2 per cent.

In 2021, the staff increase for North Dundas municipal employees was set at 0.7 per cent.

The bylaw basically dictates what each year’s salary increase will be. This year, the inflation rate is 5.2 per cent and the bylaw automatically uses that number to set salaries for the municipality.

Angela Rutley, North Dundas CAO explained to the council, “Council passed a policy that made for the annual adjustment of salaries by the CPI. The policy has changed slightly but it has stayed in place since 2012. And we do this to eliminate the adverse effects on employee salary by fluctuations in the cost of living. So, each year in January, when the cost of living is released for the year ending December, which usually happens around Jan. 20, the salaries get adjusted by CPI; so, this ensures that employee’s purchasing power is maintained the same and it also helps us keep pace with other municipal salaries in the area.”

Deputy mayor Al Armstrong voiced his concern about the increase. He said municipal staff were second to none, but he had to think of the effect of such an increase on the taxpayer at the same time.

He felt that the current policy should be rescinded, and salary levels should be negotiated each year.

As far as this year’s increase went, he felt that a 3 per cent increase was a fair one.

“Part of the selling part of this policy was that it only goes up 1 or 2 per cent each year. We don’t need to be haggling over this all the time. We do it automatically. I think it’s hard to take a 5 per cent increase. It is a hard number to give to our taxpayers. And these are the people that we need to represent, and with all due respect to our staff members, it is quite a slap to be putting 5.2 per cent in place,” said Armstrong.

He mentioned that the United Counties of SD&G, this year went with 3 per cent.

He acknowledged that as a rule, events like an ice storm or pandemic are not normal events.

Armstrong felt the solution would be to aim for a 3 per cent increase instead of 5.2 per cent, “And secondly, I think the policy should be rescinded and we should be negotiating these things every single year. “

Mayor Fraser pointed out that the existence of a bylaw concerning any pay increase means that the bylaw would have to be changed.

Councillors Thompson, Annable, and Bergeron agreed that rescinding the current bylaw might be the way to go, however Coun. Bergeron suggested perhaps an exception could be made for just this year.

In the end, the council decided to defer the decision and asked the CAO to bring more information about the different options available to the council regarding the bylaw.

No decision will be made about scrapping the existing bylaw until all the other available options have been explored.