Councillors reject $13K pay rise for budget boost
COUNCILLORS voted unanimously in favour of a 2 per cent pay rise during a meeting of the Southern Downs Regional Council this morning, but elected for the additional funds to be redirected straight into council coffers.
Councillors had the option of voting in favour of the rise and redistributing the funds, or voting in favour of a total freeze.
Their decision means more than $13,000 will be added to the spending budget for the 2020/21 financial year, to be used on council projects across the region.
Southern Downs Mayor Vic Pennisi said the pay rise was determined by the tribunal of the Local Government Remuneration Commission and would be distributed to the council, regardless of whether councillors decided to personally benefit or not.
The tribunal determines wage rises for councillors across the state, with annual rises taking effect from July 1.
Since 2017, councillor wages have increased by 8.35 per cent in total.
The wages received by councillors will remain at the award rate set in the 2019/20 financial year, in which the mayor is paid $130,584, Deputy Mayor Ross Bartley is paid $81,615 and the councillors are each paid $69,372.
Cr Pennisi will therefore accept a personal annual shortfall of $2,612, Cr Bartley a shortfall of $1632 and the councillors a shortfall of $1387 each.
The original agenda item indicated councillors wished for the additional funds to be put toward a COVID-19 recovery program, but Cr Pennisi later clarified councillors were unable to determine exactly where the money would be spent.
"We can't specifically say here is this money and we want this spent on a particular project, it just goes into a bucket," he said.
"We then control how the money is spent in that bucket."
It will be a welcome addition to a narrow budget, which has a modest surplus following the decision to freeze rate rises over the next six months.
Due to a series of complicating factors, such as drought, pandemic and government funding announcements, the budget will be handed down after the end of the 2019/20 financial year, on July 22.
"We'd rather take a little bit of extra time to do it once, and do it well," Cr Pennisi said.