Houston council pay increase now official

First increase in pay in eight years

It’s official. A bylaw is now in place as of Jan. 1 to increase the pay of councillors and the mayor, providing the first raise in eight years.

The mayor’s salary is now $18,000, up from $15,783, and a councillor will now be paid $9,000, up from $7,891.

The new bylaw also calls for annual increases matching the Consumer Price Index inflation as calculated by Statistics Canada in November of each year, a provision in the 2010 remuneration bylaw which has been replaced by this new one.

Past councils had waived the increase.

Part of the increase also reflects a change in tax policy. One-third of what councillors and the mayor had been receiving was considered a tax-free allowance. It is now to be fully taxed so the increase now covers off the implications of that change.

For each councillor in Houston, the financial impact of losing their tax-free allowance will be of approximately $737 while the mayor will lose about $1,473.

“This represents approximately a 9.3 per cent impact to net take-home pay for elected officials,” states a committee report, adding that Houston council should be compensated as a result of the changes in the tax system.

Council has also decided to increase their travel per diem – provided by the district for incidental expenses such as meals, phone and Internet – from $75 to $82.50 for any part day up to and including half day, and from $150 to $165 for any part day beyond half day up to and including a full day. These changes are also effective Jan. 1.

Council’s travel per diem is also now fully taxable.

Busier fire department

The Houston Fire Department responded to fewer fire-related calls in 2018 than it did in 2017, indicates a year end report filed by fire chief Jim Daigneault.

In 2017, there were 95 such calls, falling to 68 in 20018.

But the number of medical calls responded to increased significantly — from 58 in 2017 to 125 in 2018.

Houston fire department members were also called out to more motor vehicle accidents in 2018 — 23 — than in 2017 when 15 such calls were recorded.

Building permit values drop

Construction activity in Houston was lower last year than in 2017, indicates year end figures prepared by the District of Houston.

As of the end of December 2017, $6.373 million in construction value permits were recorded compared to $906,153 in 2018.

Work at industrial locations accounted for $2.150 million in permit values, $1.535 million was spent on commercial alterations and $2.235 million in institutional work in 2017.

Two permits for new residences amounting to $400,000 were issued in 2018 compared to four permits valued at $443,000 in 2018.

Residential alterations amounted to $126,500 covering seven permits in 2018, substantially more than one permit for $10,000 in 2017.