I’ve had lots of response to this post because it’s striking a chord. As always, the responses are varied. I’m motivated to give more details. See backgrounder below for the wider context.
City Council recently passed a motion to extend the City Manager’s current contract to 2017. I made a motion to rise and report so that this decision could be brought into the public realm as soon as possible. Council renewed the City Manger’s contract on its current terms and conditions. I voted in favour of renewing this contract.
This is why. It’s a pragmatic decision. Job searches and hiring cost a lot of money and time. And then there’s the transition time and learning curve for whoever would be hired. If we do what we say we’re going to do – get the City’s (read citizens) financial house in better order, we need to be fully focused on that, not on a job search. Having the same City Manager throughout this process who is empowered by Council and responsible to Council to carry out our decisions is extremely important.
In his article on the contract renewal, Bill Cleverly noted that Council didn’t have a copy of the contract in front of us. It’s ridiculous to think that we had no information in front of us as we made a decision. Council had all the pertinent information: The general terms of the contract are a salary of $231,452 per year plus up to $1000 per month for expenses. The City Manager’s manager’s salary – like those of all other people who aren’t in the union – is set at a base rate. There is an annual rate of increase based on a formula that includes consideration of the raises given to CUPE, Fire and Police.
It’s not pragmatic to consider possible short-term savings. The long-term solution is for Council to work at a policy level and to change the salary formula and to bring what City of Victoria employees are paid in line with with other municipalities. I recognize that it’s residents and businesses through their property taxes that pay these salaries.
As noted in the post below, Council’s number one priority for the 2013-2015 budget – as we’ve determined thus far – is “Reduce operating budget”. When Council unanimously passed the motion that I brought to the table in April to freeze property tax increases to no more than 3.25% per year, we mandated a decrease in spending of at least $6 million over the next three years. The 2011 Public Bodies Report released last month reveals that there are 224 City employees who make more than $75,000 many of these are management, not union employees. Clearly council must turn its attention to the City’s administrative costs, including staff salaries and benefits.