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Another year older and perhaps a bit further out of debt? Or perhaps a little closer to a more comfortable retirement, or a nicer vacation, or …..?

Well there goes the punchline, but it’s still worth discussing the lead in.

With Parry Sound municipal elections scheduled for the fall it’s worth looking at what the Councillors are paid and their duties. After spending about four years attending pretty much every one of the public meetings of Council and the associated budget meetings, as well as serving on two committees of Council, I think I have a pretty good idea of what is involved with serving on Council, at least with regard to the time obligations.

My bottom line is that being a Councillor in Parry Sound takes on the order of 450 hours annually of public service. Lets look at the numbers:

1. Twice monthly closed and open meetings of Council – 24 meetings at about 3 hours each – 72 hours per year.
2. Preparation for closed and open meetings of Council – 24 meetings at about 3 hours each – 72 hours per year.
3. Impromptu meetings of Council, including budget meetings – 10 meetings at about 3 hours each – 30 hours per year
4. Committee, commission and board meeting participation – 36 meetings per year (4/month) at about 3 hours each including preparation – 144 hours

So we are up to 318 hours by my estimation. We haven’t yet included the public appearance obligations of the Councillors. This includes things like Snowfest and Ribfest, basically all things ‘fest-ival’. Let’s add in another twenty hours. I’m sure that the more sociable of the Councillors also spend several hours a month meeting with town residents and listening to their concerns and requests. That perhaps adds in another eight hours a month.

There are also the regional and provincial association meetings that members of Council attend. Let’s toss in another dozen hours or so. At this point we are up to about 446 hours per year of public service. Let’s round that up to 450 hours.

Not all Councillors attend all of their meetings for any number of reasons, ranging from illness to vacations to other priorities. And not all of the Councillors are this diligent. Like high school it’s possible to get a passing grade by skipping some classes and missing some assignments if no one is keeping attendance.

So, for the diligent Councillor an estimate of 450 hours per year of service, or eight and half hours per week, seems reasonable. This translates into a pay of a bit more that $37 per hour. (This is based on an annual remuneration of about $16,733 as estimated from the 2014 draft budget. This also includes a very minor per diem for out of town meetings.) Much better than minimum wage, and certainly a nice ‘top up’ to earnings from a 9 to 5 job.

I have to believe that the money is an important motivator for some of the people hoping to serve on Council,  and that’s okay. It’s hard to imagine that for some interest in serving on Council is based on a desire to give back to the community. How many of these individuals have attended more than a couple of meetings on Council? Watching on cable doesn’t count. You aren’t a real sports fan unless you show up to support your team in person, even when it’s late and the weather is lousy. How many of these individuals, and there certainly will be more, have taken the time to serve on a committee of council? Have they made a deputation or sent a letter to Council on an issue that was important to them and the larger community? I would hope that the individuals who are lining up to serve on Council will bring a little bit of experience to the table. We’re all wet behind he ears when it comes to new responsibilities, but we should be at least towel dried.

It can seem to be a pretty cushy job sitting on Council. It’s good pay, at least when calculated on an hourly basis. And there is the ‘prestige’ that comes from being elected to Council. A position as Councillor can also be a stepping stone to higher political office.

They’re currently taking applications for Councillor and Mayor at the Parry Sound Town Office. Applications close early in September. Contact the Town Office for full details. In the meantime I would recommend candidates start attending open meetings of Council to see and understand what it’s really all about. The cameras, the lights, the action ;-). It’s more than raising your hand or voice in response to an agenda item.

Council meetings are generally held the first and third Tuesday of every month, starting at 7:00. There are lots of seats available. If you are worried about not getting a seat give me a call, I’ll save one for you. Right up front if you like.

Church Street (Parry Sound in Black & White)

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