Posted December 4, 1012
Having mismanaged the city’s finances by loading up staff, multi-million dollar capital projects and specious social engineering strategies, the Farbridge administration has now screwed up its tightly wound control.
Let’s remember that the Farbridge cohorts on council have controlled the agenda for six years. There has been little opposition as it exercised absolute power with the complicity of senior staff.
Their first major mistake came November 29 when council invited the public to present their views regarding the 2013 budget. The usual folks were there wanting more money for their causes. That was duly reported in the paper. Two representatives of labour spoke glowingly of the great job the Farbridge administration was doing. It was a giant suck up, to say the least.
Then along came three presenters who were critical of the administration’s handling of employee growth and costs since 2006. Followers of guelphspeaks were the first to publicly receive details of those well-documented presentations the next day.
At city hall, the finance department was in full defence mode to check the figures presented showing how the city staff costs had grown by 68.1 per cent in five years. It was revealed that Guelph’s employee costs in the same period, on average, exceeded those of neighbouring cities such as Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo and the Region of Waterloo. The difference of more than 20 percentage points was staggering.
The local daily reported none of this. But five days later, the Tribune became the designated hitter, to rebut the claims of a bloated and costly civic staff. It was obvious that the Trib reporter left before Milton Burns and Jeff Burke had presented their well-documented submissions to council.
In the Tribune, here’s how some city councillors explained why Guelph’s employee costs were far higher than the peer group:
Let’s start with human resources chief Mark Amorosi.
He described the problems comparing private sector compensation with that of municipal employees. “There are elements to private sector compensation, especially at the senior level, that aren’t available to their public sector counterparts. In the private sector there are stock options, annual bonuses – it just goes on and on,” he said. Perhaps he should take his talents to the private sector if he believes that.
Oh, wonder how many of Linamar’s 12,000 employees received stock options and bonuses? Wonder how secure their jobs are compared to Guelph civic employees? It’s because in that sector, performance is measured by efficiency and productivity, and you get to keep your job. No offense to most city workers.
The most hilarious comment came from Coun. Maggie Laidlaw who suggested that private sector workers should organize to fight for more attractive wages and benefits, “rather than the city joining a race to the bottom.”
Did Maggie have her bicycle helmet on too tight that night? As an employee of the University of Guelph, does her illogical statement apply to that public institution as well? No racing to the bottom there.
Coun. Todd Dennis brought up the cause of the high city employee costs as the downloading of jobs from the province. Turns out there were 50 jobs downloaded, not a significant number compared to the 1,500 plus equivalent full-time city staff.
Ward six bench mate, Karl Wettstein, added, “the staff number thing is a bit of a red herring, a lot of that is downloading.”
It obvious that both these guys and a number of their confreres believe that their high employee costs are due to the provincial government downloading responsibilities and jobs. Well, let’s be clear, the same downloading happened to the four neighbouring municipalities mentioned previously. And they still managed their staff costs more efficiently than Guelph, by a broad margin.
That argument is an insult to taxpayers.
It’s easy to blame someone else for your own mismanagement. The hard truth is that there has been wholesale hiring of city staff to fill jobs created by the crazy quilt of policies that the Farbridge group has inflicted on the city.
Examples abound: Zooming transportation costs, excessive compensation packages, featherbedding of locked-in jobs, opaque secret meetings, no clarity of positions, mangled communications, dodging responsibilities, excessive employee benefits, saddling the taxpayers with unnecessary pension and benefit liabilities, and, finally telling the residents what they want them to hear, but not what they need to know.
When council gathers to complete the 2013 budget, they have one sure-fire way of raising property taxes by just 2 per cent as the Guelph Chamber of Commerce requested.
Stop listening to the senior staff; freeze all hiring and lay-off 50 employees regardless of rank, last in first out.
There! That was easy.