• Jim Mosher

Gimli tops-up pay to address tax-exemption loss

Deputy mayor Richard Petrowski, here with assistant chief administrative officer Kelly Cosgrove, and colleagues Coun. Peter Holfeuer and Coun. Thora Palson approved the indemnity increase at a regular meeting Feb. 27.

Following the lead of other Manitoba municipalities, Gimli council has raised its annual indemnity to compensate for the loss of a one-third federal tax exemption that took effect Jan. 1.

That exemption applied to monthly indemnities, hourly work on behalf of the municipality and attending out-of-town meetings.

Each of the five members of council will now receive $5,000 more, which translates to about $417 a month, after council passed second then third and final reading of its new indemnities bylaw Feb. 27. The amended bylaw passed first reading in November.

The pay hike affects the mayor, deputy mayor and councillors differently. The mayor will receive, as a percentage of the full 2018 indemnity, 24.9%, the deputy mayor 31.45% and councillors 32.68%.

The $5,000 across-the board indemnity increase virtually eliminates the tax impact for councillors, though the mayor will still have to pay taxes on $1,700 remaining on the previously-exempt portion of $6,700.

The deputy mayor will have to pay taxes on $300 while the three remaining councillors will face a net tax impact of $100 on their previously-exempt $5,100.

The mayor will receive $25,100 a year, up from $20,100 last year. The deputy mayor will receive $20,900, up from $15,900. The three remaining councillors will receive $20,300, up from $15,300.

The daily indemnity for out-of-town time paid council members on municipal business was raised to $200 from $150, a third of the latter of which had been tax exempt.

The formerly one-third tax-exempt $22 hourly rate for conducting municipal business is now $25.

“We’re looking at the increase but also taking to consideration that the federal government is taxing us more,” Coun. Thora Palson said. “That’s definitely one reason to increase indemnities for a full term.”

The monthly indemnity increases are designed to cushion the blow of losing the former federal exemption. Instead of the federal government footing the bill for the exemption, the new $25,000 annual expense now falls to Gimli property taxpayers — leaving aside the fact that property taxpayers also pay federal taxes.

Council members who use their vehicles for municipal purposes will continue to receive 47 cents a kilometre.

Palson suggested her colleagues consider bumping up the daily meal allowance by $10. “That hasn’t changed in two terms now,” she said. The former and current rate for this allowance is $60 a day for meals and incidentals.

Coun. Peter Holfeuer spoke against the suggested increase. I think the indemnities have increased substantially I don’t think we need that [increase in the meal allowance],” he said.

Council went on to pass the revamped indemnity bylaw 3-0, which included deputy mayor Richard Petrowski, Holfeuer and Palson. (Mayor Lynn Greenberg was at a dinner with Gimli Kiwanians while Cody Magnusson, on a temporary leave, was also absent.)

The new indemnity structure is retroactive to Jan. 1.

By way of comparison, Gimli’s $5,000 indemnity increase eclipses that of other cottage country municipalities. Winnipeg Beach raised the annual indemnity $1,200 while Dunnottar’s increase was $600.

Taking it a step further, the Evergreen School Division pared its budget for trustees $15,000 last year. Effective July, when its 2019-2020 budget comes in to play each of the nine trustees will receive $900 less a year as part of their indemnity. The school board’s new budget also eliminates a $180 per diem formerly paid for twice yearly trustee visits to the division’s eight schools. In all, the recently passed division budget pares $22,000 from the previous amounts paid to trustees.

(Watch for our news story about the Evergreen budget coming early this week.)

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