Hawkesbury councillors have voted to "respectfully decline" increases in their fees and keep their pay rates for the next financial year at 2018/19 levels.
The issue came before the May 28 council meeting, with staff recommending the maximum fees payable to councillors of a regional rural council be approved for the 2019/20 financial year.
Councillors voted to keep their fees at the previous year's rates 12 months ago, a move Cr Nathan Zamprgno said was made in the light of "very recent and very hefty hikes to rates that we had imposed on the community".
In moving the staff recommendations for this year's fees, Cr Zamprogno said it had been appropriate at the time "for us to show some solidarity with the community.
"It is worth pointing out, however, that over the last 12 months by not taking the increase that was offered by ... the remuneration tribunal, council saved a grand total of $7,132 or 0.009 per cent of our overall budget," he said. "So it might be symbolic, but it's also reasonably tokenistic. I think the broader community don't begrudge us the fee that we are paid to give of our time and energy and talent to be here. What they would begrudge was if we were not across our subject matter, if we weren't engaged with the community, and if we didn't turn up as often as possible."
However, Cr John Ross moved for the rates to remain at the 2018/19 levels, which would see councillors receive $19, 310 per annum, the mayor $42,120 and the deputy mayor an addition $6,318 taken out of the mayor's allowance.
"The financial situation of council is far from satisfactory, $9.5 million and the meter is still running red hot," he told the meeting. "I believe that as a councillor it is incumbent upon us to have regard to the community to whom we report and who put us in this chamber and show them the respect with which they deserve to be treated and forego the opportunity to improve our material situation with the council in this diabolical financial position."
Mayor Barry Calvert said Hawkesbury councillors were among the lowest paid in the Sydney metropolitan area and that "what's being proposed here is not a wage increase or a pay rise, what's being proposed is that we keep up with the CPI.
"By not keeping up with the CPI, what you're suggesting is that we should actually take a reduction in the money in real terms that we receive," he said.
However, the recommendation to accept the maximum fee payable was defeated with only three councillors voting in favour. Cr Ross' motion to "respectfully decline the opportunity to increase their allowance" was then carried nine votes to two.