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Analysis of council work could cost city up to $125,000

The City of Airdrie will analyze how much time councilors spend on the job in order to provide a realistic expectation to future council candidates.
City council met April 3 and declared April 15 to 21 Nation Volunteer Week in Airdrie.
Coun. Heather Spearman brought forward a motion at the City council meeting on May 7.

A report looking into how Airdrie’s elected council members do their duties could cost the City anywhere from $75,000 to $125,000.

With the exponential growth of the City, council’s obligations and duties have shifted, according to Coun. Heather Spearman, who brought forward the motion.

“I believe that what we saw in the 2021 election document in terms of our obligation on council may have shifted, and thought it would be appropriate to ask if council had the appetite to engage a third party to do a review of what our council roles and obligations are so that those can be better defined for upcoming elections and those participating in this role,” Spearman said.

The report is meant to analyze the amount of time council members perform in their roles as elected officials. It will also compare their duties to comparable municipalities across Canada.

The City would hire an external consultant to complete the analysis.

“We want to make sure that whoever is sitting in these seats has the appropriate expectation of what the job is, and the proper tools to do the job right, because whether we’re sitting on this side of the bench or in the gallery, we want what’s best for our community,” said Coun. Al Jones. “(But) I’m hoping it’s closer to $75,000.”

Funds for the analysis will be drawn from the general operating reserve with minimal staff resources allocated.

Each member of council currently provides varying levels of their time and service, some more and some less, depending on their participation in meetings and committees.

“I know I’m putting in a lot more hours than I expected when I took on the role, but I knew coming into the role that it was going to be a heavy load,” Spearman said.

While councilors expressed their “sticker shock” to the cost of the analysis, they hope administration will look into doing this as cost effectively as possible. Jones called the report a “necessary evil.”

Comparing each councillor would be difficult, Coun. Candice Kolson said, as they all contribute at varying levels. She added it’s important to have a realistic expectation of how much time councillors put into their work.

“We are the gatekeepers of a multi-million dollar organization,” Kolson said. “We need to be available to help and assist staff in making decisions.”

Coun. Ron Chapman noted that if the report helps future candidates make a decision in order to run for council, he’s okay with the price tag. While Coun. Belyk felt they are dollars well spent, allowing the City to be proactive.

Mayor Peter Brown noted that if council had not approved a council meeting time change several weeks ago this conversation would not be happening. While he was working 14 to 16 hours most Mondays for a lot of years, the recent change has afforded him time to review the agenda during a work day instead of on Sunday evening, he said.

He stated that he was struggling to spend the money on this report.

City administration noted the Municipal Government Act (MGA) includes a list of functions and duties of elected officials and the council remuneration policy states that each councillor is paid 47 per cent of the Mayor’s salary. Forty-seven per cent of a regular work week for the City of Airdrie would equal out to be 17.62 hours a week for elected councillors, as outlined in the MGA, administration explained.

Coun. Tina Petrow also spoke in favour of the report, while expressing her shock at the cost. 

She noted that while door knocking during the campaign period, many residents did not know who Airdrie’s councillors were.

“When residents don’t even understand that we have our own mayor and council, it does mean we are not doing a good job of being out there,” she said, adding a step like this analysis could be a good look at the needs of the community.

Masha Scheele

About the Author: Masha Scheele

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