La Ronge mayor and council are looking to review their salaries at next week’s council meeting in what Mayor Colin Ratushniak concedes will be an “awkward conversation” to have in public.
Remuneration has been frozen since 2019 when previous Mayor Ron Woytowich halted yearly increases. Prior to that, salaries went up annually based on the rate of inflation in Saskatchewan.
Ratushniak said he welcomes a salary review so that the town will be “on par” with other municipalities.
“I just want to be on par, for our counselors and for myself, to other municipalities and inflation. It’s always nice to be able to say that we’ll keep a freeze on certain things. But if we’re not at the same standards that everyone else is, then that’s when people start feeling undervalued and that’s just not fair and equitable,” Ratushniak said.
“It’s always an awkward conversation to negotiate anything in public like that. But I think for us — who are doing countless hours that do not equate to the money that we’re getting — it would be nice to kind of know just sort of where we sit with that.”
As of 2019 the mayor makes $24,935 per year, deputy mayor receives $13,233 and councillors get $9,733.
Ratushniak, who took office last November, said his duties as mayor have taken up more time than he expected due to the pandemic.
He also works as a pilot with Transwest, fitness supervisor at the Jonas Roberts Memorial Community Centre and coaches the La Ronge Figure Skating Club.
“You get lucky, I think, with some terms versus the others. There was another term (in 2015) when the mayor had to deal with evacuations for the fires. So I think it’s just luck of the draw,” Ratushniak said.
“With COVID and for the vaccine rollout… I’m putting in definitely more than 40 hours a week for a lot of these things… It’s almost become another full time job for me and I like it, I signed up for it, and I’m happy to do those things.”
He said it would “be nice to see (salaries) bump up to the standard,” but that depends on what comes back from the town administration’s rate comparison. He said he’s not expecting a full-time salary for his role as mayor.
“We’re obviously not there for the money. We’re there for the community… We still have to make sure that we can keep improving the community like we want to do,” Ratushniak said.
Councillor and deputy mayor Jordan McPhail said that he gets where the mayor is coming from and isn’t against reviewing salaries.
He said La Ronge should be at the same standard as other municipalities, whether that means an increase or a decrease.
“I think it’s always a shell shock for any person that’s brand new. Whether that be in the mayor’s role or as a councillor. In the first four to six months, you’re doing a lot of learning, you’re doing a lot of getting used to the ebbs and flows of being an elected official,” McPhail said.
“I can honestly say that for myself, I’m comfortable exactly where I’m at. It was not the wages that got me to that position, it was a matter of the type of work that I was doing and serving the community.”
He said that while salary has never been a factor for him, since he maintains another full-time job with flexible hours, not everyone has that luxury.
Access to electronics in order to work from home is also important amid the COVID-19 pandemic, McPhail said.
“My grandpa (Rex McPhail) sat on the last council and he talked about how back in the day it was $25 per meeting that you went to. But that was also in times when $16,000 could buy you a house. So you also have to take into consideration what $25 meant then as well,” McPhail said.
“Every once in a while you do have to do a market average and see where everybody’s at and ultimately make a decision on where your municipality is and whether you want to be at the bottom end of that scale, in the middle or at the top.”