Fee rise sparks debate as mayor gets a rise at last

Perhaps surprisingly, it proved contentious when members discussed their fees at a meeting in June. Not because they wanted more, but because one wanted less.

Mayor Cr Tony Maroun, who’s been paid the minimum for two years, was awarded a fee rise to $52,960 – $16,640 as a councillor and $36,320 in his role as Mayor.

“Ask any mayor and they’ll tell you that this is a full-time job. The community expects nothing less,” he said. “Since I was elected in 2009 to the mayoralty, I have received the minimum fee, despite the workload increasing substantially compared to when I was a councillor. While I’m not complaining, because holding the office of Mayor is a great honour, this has been at a great personal sacrifice.”

The controversy arose when Cr Keith Kwon suggested he and his colleagues refuse a 4.2 per cent rise. It was Kwon who decided the mayor’s office should accept the minimum when he was the incumbent two years ago.

To rally support for his argument that councillors reject a rise, Kwon had done the maths – it amounted to $12 a week. “I was suggesting we forgo $12 a week to show we are happy to serve the community,” he said.

Cr Helen McLucas said: “I’d applaud if it was for us. But with the 2012 elections coming up, we need to create opportunities for the broader community,” adding that for many potential councillors, the real cost of attending functions and meetings was more than the allowance. For a single mum, say, there’s the cost of babysitters, transport or petrol.

In the end, council voted in favour of the rise by five to one, giving councillors $16,640 a year in fees. Section 248 of the Local Government Act 1993 provides that every councillor in NSW must be paid an annual fee – with an additional fee payable to mayors under Section 249. The Local Government Remuneration Tribunal recommended a rise of 4.2 per cent for councillors and mayors across the state for the financial year 2011/12.

Apart from Cr Keth Kwon, all Strathfield mayors have claimed the maximum or near-maximum mayoral allowance.  “Being a councillor is a full-time job – I can’t walk down a supermarket aisle without someone raising an issue,” Cr Paul Barron said.

All that, say the Remuneration Tribunal, for $320 a week.


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