By Jeremy Sollars
Southern Downs councillors have voted against accepting a pay rise for the 2020-2021 financial year recommended by the State Government commission which determines councillor salaries.
Councillors voted on the issue at their June monthly meeting held in Warwick today, Wednesday 24 June.
In a statement a council spokeswoman said the councillors “resolved to accept no remuneration increase and remain at the same level of remuneration as per the 2018 Annual Report of the Local Government Remuneration Commission”.
Mayor Vic Pennisi said that councillors believe their role “should reflect the community they represent, and remuneration should be included in that reflection”.
“There are a lot of small businesses and individuals who have experienced a lot of financial instability throughout the drought and COVID-19,” Cr Pennisi said.
“Councillors believe that accepting a pay increase when our community has felt such acute financial pain is not appropriate.
“The Local Government Remuneration Commission determines a legal maximum, but this recommendation does not take into account the nuances of every community.
“It is the role of the Councillors to determine objectively if this is appropriate for their local government areas.
“Councillors and I believe that the money earmarked for a pay rise would be better spent in other areas of Council.”
The council spokeswoman said each year the Local Government Remuneration Commission “decides the maximum amount of remuneration payable to the various categories of local government”.
“Unless Council decides by resolution that the maximum amount is not payable, then the maximum remuneration schedule is applicable.
“Additionally, a resolution must be made determining the amount payable to Councillors, which cannot be more than the maximum amount of remuneration payable to the Councillors under the remuneration schedule.
“Southern Downs Councillors have voted to maintain the same level of remuneration indicated in the 2018 Annual Report.”
The current pay schedule for Southern Downs councillors is as follows –
• Mayor – $130,584
• Deputy Mayor – $81,615
• Councillors – $69,372
Had they accepted the recommended pay rise levels would have risen as follows, totalling just under $14,000 –
• Mayor $133,196
• Deputy Mayor $83,247
• Councillor $70,759
Decisions on councillor pay rises are normally made as part of the annual budget process so any increase can be factored into budget planning.
Mayor Vic Pennisi this week told the Free Times the new 2020-2021 council budget – which had been expected to be adopted and publicly released next Tuesday 30 June – is likely to be delayed for at least a fortnight, with councillors and council staff still working through public submissions on the draft budget released earlier this month.
Cr Pennisi also told the Free Times this week the council is in the process of making a submission to Queensland Health to review COVID-19 social distancing rules to allow the public and media to attend council meetings in person, with meetings having been live-streamed on Facebook since the start of COVID-19.