03/19/2015 07:32 EDT | Updated 05/19/2015 05:59 EDT

Saint-Lazare defends salary hike for councillors

Councillors in the town of Saint-Lazare will now be earning 60 per cent more than they did last year.

Saint-Lazare Mayor Robert Grimaudo says his council members work extremely hard given their meagre salaries. 

When Grimaudo was re-elected in 2013, councillors earned about $12,000 a year.

After a year of adding stipends for each meeting a council member attended to increase their compensation, his administration now plans to simply set councillor salaries at $19,000 instead. 

Grimaudo makes $56,000 a year and says setting council salaries at about a third of the mayor’s salary brings Saint-Lazare in line with provincial norms. It also brings councillor salaries closer to what Grimaudo believes they deserve.

“I don’t know too many people who work 25-hour weeks for $19,000 a year,” said Grimaudo.

Citizens unsure

Concerns have been raised by citizens, however, over the added expenses in a town that has seen taxes rise in recent years and that is facing a projected deficit of $4 million in 2015.

When CBC spoke to residents in Saint-Lazare Thursday, some agreed with their mayor, but others questioned whether the money could be better spent elsewhere.

Grimaudo said he had only received two complaints from citizens, which he didn’t consider to be enough to revise his plan.

“In a city with a population of  20,000, I don’t consider that a huge objection,” he said.

Meeting pay

Grimaudo says he has no plans to increase his own salary, and that the city will no longer pay councillors $100 for every meeting they attend. 

He says that program, which began in 2014, effectively gave each councillor an average of $8,000 last year on top of their salaries. But Grimaudo says it was complicated to maintain.

“It was sort of like a pilot project,” he said. “But what it did do was cause a certain amount of administration.”