Ponoka town council considers retention salaries and compensation

Along with councillor salaries, officials discussed the Ponoka Golf Course property taxes

Mayor Rick Bonnett

Councillor salaries and a potential severance for years of service are items Mayor Rick Bonnett wants council to look at.

He provided two notices of motion to council during the regular meeting April 24 with salaries and a transition package being one of the items.

“In 2019 as council we will be taxed 100 per cent on honorariums,” said Bonnett.

He added there’s other communities considering this upcoming change although there’s been no specific motion from area councils.

One of the issues for Bonnett is that retaining good candidates is a challenge. The hours are long and the pay isn’t the greatest and being 100 per cent taxable means elected officials will be making less.

“They end up using their holiday to do that,” said Bonnett about the long hours.

His suggestion for retention of councillors is that if a person has served at least six years in the same position they would get a certain amount for each year when they leave. As an example, Bonnett gave an idea of $4,000 per year served. He added that it’s not set in stone but more of a discussion to hear from councillors.

Coun. Teri Underhill says her tax bill will go up by about $1,500 with this change and the amount of work she does behind the scenes is much more than people realize.

“I don’t think anybody signs up understanding how many hours it is without your family,” said Underhill.

READ: Ponoka News editor feels councillors should be paid what they’re worth.

READ our web poll: Should councillors receive a severance for years of service?

Coun. Carla Prediger feels a retention amount and raise is a double edged sword that may keep unqualified individuals. She also feels this motion will negatively affect those who have just started. Prediger referred to councillors Ted Dillon, Kevin Ferguson and Clayton Nelson.

“I really have a hard time with giving ourselves a raise at tax time when we’ve just taxed our ratepayers,” added Prediger.

Bonnett says that by Jan. 1, 2019, he doesn’t feel he can afford to be mayor if they don’t get a raise.

Rather than make any decisions on the question, Underhill suggested that council should look at this issue at a committee of the whole meeting. Prediger added it would be a good idea to speak with other municipalities looking to make these changes.

Council voted to discuss the item at a committee of the whole meeting.

Mayor, council and CAO salaries for 2017

Mayor Rick Bonnett: $36,321 plus $1,025 for benefits and allowances

Coun. Loanna Gulka: $15,572 plus $367

Coun. Tim Falkiner: $12,267 plus $258

Coun. Sandra Lyon: $21,047 plus $521

Coun. Carla Prediger: $20,797 plus $513

Coun. Teri Underhill: $22,490 plus $569

Coun. Marc Yaworski: $16,314 plus $392

Coun. Ted Dillon: $4,308 plus $116

Coun. Kevin Ferguson: $3,793 plus $105

Coun. Clayton Nelson: $3,798 plus $105

CAO Albert Flootman: $151,999 plus $32,702

Reducing taxes for the Ponoka Golf Club

The second notice of motion by Bonnett related to property taxes for the Ponoka Golf Club.

“They were told at the time of the annexation they would have so many years under the county rate,” said Bonnett, adding that those rates have since changed.

He pointed out that the property taxes for the whole golf course land is a large chunk of change that’s affecting business operations. The club has asked that the taxes on the land be seen as recreational, with a lower tax rate, similar to the Ponoka Gymnastics and Trampoline club and recreation centre.

The club is in favour of commercial property taxes being applied to the parking lot area and the clubhouse, but asks that the rest be reduced.

The other option, said Bonnett, is to have the course operate under the Town of Ponoka if the club is unable to manage the taxes. He did not speak in favour of the latter.

“I think it’s a no brainer honestly,” added Underhill, suggesting that the club assists the community with other projects.

“Anything we can do to keep them viable is our duty I think.”

Prediger suggests this is a fairly urgent issue that administration needs to address.

Ponoka Golf Club board treasurer, Pete Hall, says membership is down a little over last year and the club usually sees about $400,000 in memberships but is now seeing about $320,000. That being said, it’s better than some community courses he’s heard about.

Hall added that the property tax bill sits at $48,000 compared to $32,000 for Rocky Mountain House. Other courses, like Nanton pays zero dollars in taxes, added Hall.

The other challenge is the club’s membership fees went up a little, said Hall, which seems to have reached a tipping point.

Coun. Sandra Lyon wanted to see a fix on this issue so that the club would not have to keep coming back each year. Bonnett suggested council could direct administration to have the land and commercial part of the property assessed to determine tax values.

One of the efforts of the club is that it provides other community supports to the community. It was suggested by Prediger that administration work with the club on assessment first but also to include some type of agreement that the club will continue its community outreach and support.

Council approved the motion to have administration split the properties and have it be assessed.

While Bonnett provided the notices of motion, deputy Mayor Ted Dillon chaired the meeting.

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