A small change to a federal tax policy is causing some big changes locally.

As of January 1st, municipal councillor salaries across the country will be fully taxed. Until now, one-third of council salaries were not taxed. Because of this change, Bracebridge officials are looking at increasing salaries to make up for the difference.

Mayor Graydon Smith says this is a ‘despicable move’ by the feds to download more costs to municipalities. He says council members have depended on this portion of tax savings as part of their annual wages. According to Town Clerk Lori McDonald, this change is going to impact the municipal budget by about $38,000 for 2018.

All salaries for the councillors, deputy-mayor and mayor have been increased for 2018. However, Councillor Mark Quemby says while councillor salaries reflect a part-time position the mayor’s salary should be more in line with a full-time job. He says this is because the mayor spends more time dealing with municipal issues. He says if they want to continue to attract younger men and women to the position of mayor, they need to keep the salary competitive. Councillors agreed that the 2018 salary for the mayor should be increased, but town staff wasn’t able to give an example of how much that would be.

The change in compensation would also give councillors a $1,200 annual Information Technology Allocation if they’re not already getting that from the District of Muskoka.

Looking at cost-saving measures, town officials have considered moving to a Health Spending Account benefit coverage plan for all councillors. This would allow each councillor and the mayor a $4,000 benefit each year to use on medical and dental costs. The coverage would end either when the councillor turned 70 or they ended their term.

Town councillors had issues with a few parts of this new plan including stopping coverage after 70 and the $4,000 cap. McDonald says they went with this plan because it keeps extended care coverage costs under control, which will save the town money. She says the coverage cancellation at age 70 was decided on because that is the average age most insurance companies cut off benefits. All the councillors agreed this age cut-off should be removed.

A final report on the suggested changes to salaries and the benefit plan will be presented during the regular council meeting next week.

Here is the break down of salary increases right now:

  • Mayor: original increase suggestion was $37,705.20 but will be higher following the amendment to increase that position’s salary
  • Deputy-Mayor: $25,480.55
  • Councillor: $19,897.77