SOUTH DUNDAS – Employees of the Municipality of South Dundas can expect a 5.2 per cent cost of living adjustment after council accepted their administration’s recommendation on the matter.

The question was brought to council earlier this month (Jan. 9) by Deputy Mayor Marc St. Pierre. “I brought this forward because it is a hot topic of discussion,” said St. Pierre. “We have been introduced to CPI (Consumer Price Index) through the water budget and during our first counties’ council meeting in December, and what bothers me is the notion that I think this policy is a little open ended. I think we should be setting the parameters based on some fixed numbers versus just CPI and waiting to discuss during budget. I think there are better formulas out there.”

Members of council offered comments on the topic and subsequently agreed to have staff develop options for consideration and report back at the Jan. 30 regular council meeting with several options.

The recommendation was presented to council by acting treasurer Lachlan McDonald. “You can see in the report that we’re recommending 5.2 per cent, which we had talked about earlier, and then direct you, directing staff to review, I guess compensation models for future years. It also times well with the compensation review.”

McDonald mentioned several different compensation models for council to consider going forward and cautioned that further discussion should be considered as it would be easy to get lost in the many different models. He went on to explain why South Dundas had fallen behind other communities in terms of compensation.

“The reason you see South Dundas slightly lagging your local municipal comparators is the 0.7 that was applied in 2022, when COLA was closer to 3.7 per cent,” said McDonald. “I forget exactly which one was used here. However, it’s up front for council to discuss and we’ll gladly do what you decide.”

Deputy Mayor St. Pierre was the first to speak on the matter and indicated that it would have been his preference to settle the matter now and for the next three years during this meeting but accepted that was not going to happen. “I would say though, the min would be 1 per cent, and my max would be 4 per cent. I think 4 per cent is, you know, above the norm of 3 per cent. I think it’s fair.

“I would propose, to be honest with you, of applying a 4 per cent increase to the COLA for this year, until such time as the comp review gets completed. I think 4 per cent is still fair, yes, I recognize it’s not the 5.2, I recognize, it’s not the 6 per cent that’s been published. But I do think 4 per cent is still fair for staff. So that is something that I would propose for now. And let’s get through the budget, and let’s get through the comp review. And then we can create a formula, that’s going to be set in stone, at least for the next three years of our term of council.”

Councillor Danielle Ward indicated that she was in favour of the recommendation, and in fact, wasn’t sure if it was enough. “We clearly have an issue retaining staff. And I think this chart speaks to that. We are at the bottom, no matter what per cent increase we’re giving them. I look at the increase that is the 5.2 per cent and at least we get in the middle. I’m not asking council to be the number one or the top provider, but I do think we need to consider what being at the bottom is telling our staff.”

Councillor Cole Veinotte echoed Coun. Wards comments. “I believe 0.7 per cent for the past two years, that there is an inevitable adjustment that needs to be made, because we were lacking for a couple of years.

“I believe there’s an adjustment that has been made. I agree that it’s very difficult. It’s tough timing, we were in the midst of a comp review and that would be great information to have for this. But being we’re not there. I would be in agreement with the 5.2, just because it’s currently in the budget, and it looks like it fits. But I also agree with Deputy Mayor St. Pierre on that we need to have a structure for this. We need to not do this every year, in fairness with staff like you’ve mentioned.”

Councillor Tom Smyth as well, stated he was willing to accept the recommendation of 5.2 per cent, stating that he felt this year was a bit of an anomaly. “I’m just like everybody else, I wish I had the comp review in front of me and we don’t unfortunately.

“This year is almost a one-off, where the CPI is so much, and most years it’s two, maybe it’s three and a half, point five. And so, in most years, the way that we’re doing it is maybe not that big of a deal. But this year it is, so we’re definitely behind. Now keep in mind, a lot of people maybe work in the private sector, aren’t getting a 5.2 per cent raise this year, myself included. But at the end of the day, we have to retain staff and we have to stay competitive and so for this year, I would be in favour of something around 5 per cent.”

After further discussion, a motion stating that “The councillors of the municipality of South Dundas accept the report FS 2013-01 and approve the 5.2 per cent cost of living adjustment increased based on the 2021 CPI for the 2023 budget and direct staff to return with options for council for deliberation following the compensation review currently underway. The motion was moved by Coun. Ward and seconded by Coun. Veinotte. Councillors Ward, Veinotte and Smyth voted in favour, while Deputy Mayor St. Pierre opposed the motion, so it was carried.