After a year of frozen salaries at Stettler County, councillors decided to give their staff a three per cent pay raise effective Jan. 1, 2022.
The decision was made at the Dec. 8 regular meeting of council.
Councillors read a report presented by Christa Cornelsson, manager of financial services regarding a cost of living pay raise for county staff.
“In 2022 the following cost of living increases are recommended for the following: Lacombe County – 2.75 per cent, Wheatland County – two per cent, MD of Big Horn – 4.7 per cent, Kneehill County – 3.5 per cent proposed, Red Deer County – 1.5 per cent proposed, Rockyview County – two per cent proposed, Paintearth County – TBD, and Starland County – TBD,” stated Cornelsson’s memo.
“Cost of Living Index (COLI) for Alberta comparing Oct. 2020 to Oct. 2021 is 4.3 per cent.”
Cornelsson noted she used Stats Canada information when looking at cost of living numbers and also included information from nearby rural municipalities.
Stettler County staff did not receive a cost of living increase in 2021.
Cornelsson stated the administration recommendation was to include a three per cent cost of living increase for Stettler County staff in the 2022 budget.
Coun. James Nibourg wondered why the recommended increase was less than COLI. “This is not COLI, this is less than COLI,” said Nibourg.
County Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Yvette Cassidy stated the cost of living numbers have been affected by supply chain problems, driving those numbers higher.
Coun. Justin Steven stated the municipality should keep pace with the rate of inflation but councillors also have tough decisions looming as they develop their 2022 budgets, adding that it may seem cliche but lots of people have taken a financial hit recently, including farmers who had a horrible drought year in 2021.
Stevens stated he would not support a 4.3 per cent pay increase.
Coun. Les Stulberg agreed with Stevens, adding that statistics may include urban areas that don’t affect cost of living in Stettler County and that the farm community took a huge financial cut this year.
Stulberg stated he could support three per cent.
Coun. Dave Grover stated he could support a three per cent raise.
Reeve Larry Clarke stated the council will have tough decisions to make in the upcoming budget process and warned it’s possible the only way to balance the budget may be to cut staff.
Coun. Ernie Gendre added that the preliminary 2022 budget was “…quite an eye shocker,” and he felt three per cent was generous.
Nibourg stated he mentioned 4.3 per cent mostly to gauge what the erst of council was thinking.
Councillors approved a three per cent cost of living increase for municipal staff effective Jan. 1, 2022 by a 6 to 1 vote, Stevens the lone dissenter.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism initiative reporter