Penticton’s wage costs shot up by over $1.6 million in 2017.
The good news is the city wasn’t responsible for paying all of it. Much of the $1,611,754 increase, according to Angela Campbell, the city’s controller, was caused by overtime, extra call outs and standby pay related to the flooding and fire emergencies last year.
“During the course of 2017, there were several emergency events that caused significant overtime to be worked by staff, which was subsequently recovered from the province,” said Campbell.
Under its emergency management program, the Province of B.C. is responsible for a portion of the costs incurred by communities.
City council also cost taxpayers a little more this year. Their salaries, including expenses, increased $1,988 over 2016. Most of that came from the expenses column, especially that of Coun. Judy Sentes, who expensed $4,697 – $1,242 more than in 2016.
“That was my office’s fault,” said Peter Weeber, the city’s chief administrative officer, referring to the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention. “There was a hotel error and her booking was missed.”
That resulted in the city paying full price for Sentes room at the convention, rather than the much cheaper convention block purchase rate.
“When we booked it was more expensive. Lower Mainland hotels are not cheap these days,” said Weeber.
Management salaries dropped by $3,487.75, with two fewer management positions over the $75,000 pay threshold. That change was nullified and more by 10 CUPE positions rising over the threshold.
Coun. Campbell Watt questioned whether the $75,000 threshold — mandated by the province — is still relevant, given rises in the cost of living over the years.
“That number has been in place since 2002. I know through attending the government finance officer association conference, that is something many municipalities are pushing for, to have them increase the limit,” said Campbell.
Watt said, doing a rough calculation of the increase in the Consumer Price Index, the 2018 equivalent would be just over $100,000. That, he said, could be a new threshold.
“Though I completely agree with transparency on what people make, there is still the other side of that person who might not want everyone to know what they are making and haven’t let themselves get to that management level where they should be a little more in the spotlight,” said Watt.
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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