Councillors to vote on pay rise

LISMORE councillors will vote on Tuesday night whether to give themselves a pay rise.

If they go ahead the 10 councillors will receive a maximum increase of $470, taking their annual pay to $15,970.

Mayor Jenny Dowell, who has voted against all pay rises since she was elected to council almost seven years ago, would receive a maximum of $1020, taking her annual remuneration to $34,860.

The possible increase follows a 6.8 per cent rise last year.

Each year the Local Government Remuneration Tribunal recommends annual payments to be made to councillors. It is then up to individual councils to adopt the recommendation.

This year, the tribunal has recommended a 3pc rise, slightly higher than the 2.6pc rate-pegging cap.

Councillor Gianpiera Battista, who passionately opposed last year’s rise, said he was even more opposed this year.

“We just can’t afford it,” he said. “Last year we had a surplus budget, but this year we are looking at a slight deficit.”

He said while he opposed the increase on principle, politically it would be difficult to justify after the recent acrimonious community consultation over the then proposed special rate rise.

“From a political point of view and in the eyes of the community it would be hard to justify an increase,” Cr Battista said.

“I can understand it may be difficult for other councillors because we do put in a lot of hours, but you don’t run for council to make money,” he said.

However, deputy mayor Isaac Smith said he would have no problem voting for the rise.

“The fact is that councillors are underpaid,” he said. “Some people may think that we sit in an ivory tower, but the person flipping burgers at McDonalds gets paid more than we do.”

“We put in between 35 and 40 hours a week and make important planning and other decisions that affect 50,000 ratepayers, while the person flipping burgers only has to make sure they don’t burn them.”

Richmond Valley councillors last month voted to reject the 3pc pay rise.

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