STELLARTON – Town clerk Joyce Eaton says she’s comfortable with her compensation being published with her municipal counterparts throughout Nova Scotia.
She was referring to a recent report by the CBC that published the salaries of the CEOs from across the province.
Eaton said salaries like hers represent public information contained in the town’s annual financial statements and she is not concerned with how other municipal clerks and CAOs are compensated.
“I never gave it any thought,” she said. “I try not to compare with other municipalities in the county or elsewhere.”
Eaton is the town’s clerk/treasurer and has been since April 2000. Her salary in 2014-15 was $98,200 in a town whose population was 4,485 based on the 2011 census. She is one of four administrative staff in the town office. There is no assistant clerk or assistant administrative staff.
“It’s efficient and effective,” she said. “Work is pretty heavy at times, but it saves the municipality money.”
She uses her own vehicle and claims mileage only when her travelling takes her out of the county. She did claim mileage within the county when she worked on the steering committee represented by Stellarton and three other municipalities that worked through the memorandum of understanding (MOU) process.
She said town council does base not her salary on any certain template and noted that her benefits are identical to the other administrative employees.
Pictou CAO Scott Conrod noted his salary, $99,720 for the town’s population of 3,437, is set by town council.
“My salary is published every year with the financial statements so I have no problem with that,” he says.
New Glasgow CAO Lisa MacDonald agreed with Conrod. She said the numbers are released every year at a certain time after the annual municipal audit is complete; it has been this way since before MacDonald was in the role.
She said her salary is determined by town council upon hiring but with New Glasgow in particular, they often look to Bridgewater and Amherst.
“When we are determining costs for anything like CAO or police or transportation, we look at like-sized municipalities which, for us, are Bridgewater and Amherst with the outliers of Kentville and Truro which are a bit bigger,” she said. “We look at things like services provided and how they compare to what New Glasgow has…”
New Glasgow had a population of 9,562 in 2011with MacDonald’s 2014-15 salary at $116,000.
MacDonald said CAOs often have different roles and are not necessarily cookie-cutter in all municipalities. For example, she would be responsible for more infrastructure – in particular, more kilometres of sidewalk – than some other municipalities in the surrounding area.
Trenton CAO Cathy MacGillivray also doesn’t see an issue with the salary figures being made public because they are a matter of public record.
“It’s all about transparency,” she said.
She also noted that she does feel that the amount she is paid is justified by her duties and the size of town that employs her.
In Trenton, the CAO’s salary is determined by an initial pay scale when people begin their employment and moves up over time. She said the steps of the pay scale are approved by town council.
“My salary is less than most CAOs with a population of this size,” MacGillivray said. For example, her $85,965 annual salary in a town of 2,616 is less than that of the CAO of Lunenburg Town with a salary of $103,957 for a population of 2,313 and Berwick Town at $115,428 for a population of 2,454.
Westville CAO Kelly Rice said the salary rates for her position were also set by town council. She noted that her salary is a matter of public record and can be found in the town’s financial statements.
She said she does feel like the amount she receives is justified by what she does and the size of the town.
“Particularly in a smaller municipality where they don’t have that staff, the responsibilities fall to the CAO,” she said, referring to extra tasks like finance, economic development as well as public relations and marketing.
Rice’s $77,000 for a town of 3,798 compares with that of Guysborough Municipal District at $132,549 with a population of 4,189 and Windsor at $121,171 for a population of 3,785.
County CAO Brian Cullen’s salary was listed as $111,220 for a population of 21,278. He also had no problem with how it was publicized.
“It’s public information anyway, so I didn’t have any issues with it,” he said. “There were a couple of surprises.”
He said the municipality participates in salary surveys through the provincial association of municipal administrators and compare the county with other municipalities, mostly rural ones – with a similar population and budget.