Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council has voted to give councillors a 22 per cent pay rise for the coming financial year, while the mayoral pay is going up 33 per cent.
From 1 July, councillors will make $25,310 a year and the mayor $62,510.
These are the maximum amounts dictated by the Local Government Remuneration Tribunal Annual Report, issued on 20 April this year. The current remuneration is $20,685 for councillors and $45,135 for the mayor.
The increase comes as the council faces a $10 million deficit in its general fund, and Queanbeyan residents brace for a 2.5 per cent increase in their rates.
Mayor Kenrick Winchester, who voted in favour of the pay rise, said it would help attract better candidates to council.
“People of younger generations are not putting their hands up for these roles because they can’t afford to do it,” Cr Winchester said.
“People who are putting their hand up to be mayor are mostly semi-retired or retired because professional working people can’t afford to take time off or quit their job to do this role for the amount that we pay.”
Cr Winchester told Region that “virtually all NSW councils pay themselves the maximum allowance” and it was “ridiculous that we have to decide – the amount should be set by the NSW Government”.
The vote carried seven to four, with one councillor arguing the money could be better spent.
“It could be used in our community for bus shelters, road signage, road grading and footpaths,” Cr Mareeta Grundy said.
“Mortgage stress is significant for some and others will have household expenses increasing to the point they start to exclude important items. And here we are, deciding to give ourselves a pay rise as we are asking ratepayers to dig deeper into their pockets.”
Sue Whelan is a former councillor and served on the City of Queanbeyan council in 1983 when they were paid $1000 a year, “and that was provided so we turned up to each meeting”, she said.
“We’ve now got a huge area to cover and we do need people prepared to commit. It’s not just a community service anymore. While a 22 per cent wage rise sounds huge, when you look at the amount of money they get for doing what is quite a big job with lots of responsibility, it’s fair.”
While councillor, Ms Whelan worked between 20 and 30 hours per week and this before the merger with Palerang Shire in 2016.
“No one is going to give up their day job for the sort of money you get, and if you’re young with a family, you just can’t afford to do it,” she said.
“For people to be criticising, it’s a bit over the top.”