Council votes against rollback

Mayor Greg Dionne listens to a speaker during budget deliberations on Saturday. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald.

Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne hopes the 2018 Prince Albert city budget will make waves in Regina.

On Saturday, Dionne and Prince Albert city council voted in favour of giving themselves a salary freeze instead of a reduction.

In the leadup to the budget, Dionne had hinted that city councillors would take a 3.5 per cent pay cut, which was mandated after the provincial government reduced the salaries of all Saskatchewan cabinet ministers by the same amount.

For more than 15 years, Prince Albert city councillors have had their salaries tied to the provincial cabinet, meaning the first couldn’t rise without a jump from the second.

Council changed all that on Saturday, and Dionne said he hopes the provincial government takes notice. City council is opposed to the rollbacks instituted in the government’s spring budget, and refused to approve any on Friday and Saturday.

“We’re talking more about the principal, especially this year,” Dionne explained.

Dionne added that he’d always been opposed to rollbacks in any department, a stance he’s been very vocal about with the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association. Despite that stance, he was prepared to vote in favour of a rollback for Prince Albert city council.

However, in the days leading up to Saturday’s vote, Dionne said he receive a stream of text-messages, phone calls and emails from Prince Albert residents encouraging city council to oppose any rollback, even to salaries.

The city was already looking at a zero per cent increase for most CUPE employees and out of scope staff, but instead voted to boost wages by one per cent, to help keep up with inflation. The move will add an extra $134,350 to the city’s expense line.

That reluctance to slash wages extended to city council’s own salaries.

Dionne received strong support for the idea during discussions on Saturday, with Ward 4 Coun. Don Cody being the most eager.

“I think rolling back salaries at any time is a bad idea,” Cody said during the meeting. “I think freezing salaries, from time to time, is reasonable, because after all, we do come upon hard times, and that’s where we are right now.”

Like Dionne, Cody said agreeing to roll back council salaries would show support for the provincial government’s budget, something he wasn’t eager to do.

Ward 5 Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick also spoke out strongly in favour of the motion. Ogrodnick said the province wasn’t in trouble because of public service workers or Prince Albert city council. Instead he placed the blame squarely at the feet of the government, and encouraged them to stop making Saskatchewan residents pay for those mistakes.

“Teachers and workers of this province never got us in this mess,” Ogrodnick said “This mess that this province has created is because of mismanagement of funds. That’s what this is about, so why should the workers of this province be the ones who are going to suffer?”

As mayor, Dionne is paid roughly $88,500 annually for his service, while city councilors make, on average, slightly more than $30,000. A 3.5 per cent pay cut would have shaved less than $20,000 total off the city’s budget as of January 1, 2018.

City councillors did not receive a pay increase or decrease in last year’s city budget.

@kerr_jas •