June 7, 2022
South Burnett councillors have turned down a 2 per cent pay rise to keep faith with local residents.
At Friday’s Budget meeting, councillors were told the Local Government Remuneration Commission (LGRC) had recommended all mayors, deputy mayors and councillors in Band 3 Councils receive a 2 per cent pay rise from July 1.
The increase – if accepted – would have raised the Mayor Brett Otto’s salary from $133,196 to $135,869; Deputy Mayor Gavin Jones’ salary from $83,247 to $84,912; and councillors from $70,759 to $72,174.
This would expand the total wages bill paid to the region’s elected officials by $11,404 a year, plus superannuation.
Cr Kathy Duff opened the debate by saying she opposed the recommendation.
“I’m going to vote against taking any increase at all, given the fact that we’ve cut the community back with a lot of stuff they’re not going to see,” Cr Duff said.
“I think the last thing we need to do is take a pay rise, so I’m absolutely not going to support this.”
Cr Gavin Jones agreed: “I feel exactly the same, Mr Mayor – I won’t take a pay rise, either.”
Cr Danita Potter also agreed but warned that sharp increases in the cost of fuel could have an impact on travel.
“We don’t get a fuel allowance, so (I think) we’ll be going to less places because of the affordability of things now,” she said.
Cr Kirstie Schumacher wanted to understand how the recommendation came about.
This was the first time she had been asked to vote on an LGRC recommendation.
CEO Mark Pitt said that during the COVID pandemic, the LGRC had frozen councillors’ wages but annual reviews had now returned.
The LGRC was an independent body set up by the State Government tasked with setting councillors’ pay.
Cr Schumacher said she believed no one in the Chamber did the job purely for the money; they did it because of their love for their community.
She now worked harder than she had ever worked, for roughly half the salary she had received in her previous job, but did not regret it.
She said she disagreed with Cr Duff’s analysis.
“I think – as a Council – we’ve worked really hard to balance the Budget and support our communities the best way we can,” Cr Schumacher said.
Cr Scott Henschen noted that recent increases in petrol prices had increased his fuel bill by about $53 a week.
“But we don’t do this job for the money,” Cr Henschen said.
“We’re a very frugal Council … and I only hope this (frugality) doesn’t deter good people in future.”
Cr Duff’s motion to reject the pay rise was seconded by Cr Jane Erkens, and carried unanimously.