Looking behind the staff payment numbers

Posted April 2, 2013

As the saying goes, the devil is in the details.

The recent release by the Province of the Public Sector Salary disclosures list includes all municipal employees earning more than $100,000. It shows that Guelph employed 177 individuals to operate and manage the city. It works out to be 12 per cent of the total number of employees.

That number is dwarfed by the 787 employees at the University of Guelph earning more than $100,000. City councillor Lise Burcher made the list earning $103,686 as an Associate Professor. City councillors Leanne Piper and Maggie Laidlaw are also employees at the University of Guelph but did not make the list of those earning more than 100,000.

There is a marked difference in the salaries paid when comparing apples to apples, the 110 Guelph civic staff earning more than $100,000 to that of Cambridge that has 87.

The direct comparison is in the 2010 populations of the two cities as reported by Statistics Canada. Guelph’s population is 128,000, slightly less than Cambridge with 132,900 residents.

For example, Guelph’s Fire chief made $170,102 in 2012 with added benefits of $8,162. His counterpart in Cambridge earned $154,806 plus $9,722 in benefits. Of course there are factors confined to the individual municipality. Guelph’s fire chief is listed as: General Manager, Emergency Services/Fire chief. That would suggest he has additional responsibilities. But isn’t that what a fire department is responsible for, handling all kinds of emergencies?

Guelph’s deputy Fire Chief earned $154,598 in 2012 with $8,071 in benefits. The Cambridge deputy fire chief earned $127,249 with $3,633 in benefits.

There are many other examples of comparable jobs that show that Cambridge’s civic staffs’ costs are markedly lower than Guelph’s.

The whole question of benefits fails to reveal the nature of these costs. By statute, the figures are provided by the various municipalities, school boards and post secondary institutions. The Provincial government states clearly that they publish only the information they receive. The details of benefits are not revealed.

Are the benefits taxable? Do they include travel, accommodation, entertainment, membership to clubs and associations, city-provided credit cards charges, parking, or expensive orange juice?

The taxpayers should know not only how much its staff costs but details of the benefits. The city publishes a list of some 24 benefits that are available to staff.

Al Horsman, who was hired in June 2012 did not make the list. Only those on staff for 12 months are listed. Mr. Horsman is executive director/chief financial officer for the city. Details of his employment have not been revealed. We won’t be informed until early 2014 when the province releases the 2013 list.

Is the $20,000 moving inducement bonus, recently paid to Chief Administration Officer Ann Pappert to move to Guelph a taxable benefit? There is provision under Canada Revenue Agency rules to deduct certain moving expenses when you change jobs. In Ms. Pappert’s case she lived in Waterloo but has been employed by the city prior to her promotion, so writing off the cost of moving may not be an option. It would be a taxable benefit.

What other special arrangements have been made to other employees? Does senior staff have written contracts that include benefits and bonuses? The taxpayers will never know because this administration does want you to know.

The public trust erodes when the city administration does not reveal real costs of staff and major building projects.

What is the turnover rate of city staff? How many were terminated and at what cost? How many resigned? Why was it necessary to hire 23 additional staff for 2013? Were these to replace those who had left or were they new positions?

How is the taxpayer able to judge whether their city is being run efficiently with carefully controlled costs?

To achieve this, requires a more revealing budget process that starts first with the estimated revenues for the coming year and then creates an expenses budget that matches revenue. It’s not rocket science. The days of the senior staff wandering down the hall to the council chamber with a wish list must end. Last year’s budget debacle when the staff told council it needed an 8.5 per cent tax increase was an example of hocus pocus financial management.

Despite cutting the increase to slightly under three per cent, Executive director of Environmental Services, engineering and planning, managed to gain approval for $2.6 million for a second weight scale at the organic waste management complex.

How did that happen? Why wasn’t that included in the original planning and costing of the organics plant?

Council approved that expense by using $998,000 of the federal gas tax rebate intended to be used for transportation needs.

That, my friends, is yet another example of how your money is being manipulated and wasted. That weigh scale approval has jacked up the price of the new waste management system to more than $52 million.

And in 2012, the $37 million plant produced 3,414 tonnes of compost. If ever there was a screaming need for an independent audit of that whole waste management operation, it is now.

Yeah, like that’s going to happen.

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16 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

16 responses to “Looking behind the staff payment numbers

  1. jpphelan55@hotmail.com

    I continue to be saddened by what I perceive is the slow demise of a once vibrant and beautiful city that at one time I was proud to call home.

  2. geo

    The truth, half truths or outright lies. It doesn’t matter what kind of information Her Royal Highness and Court release any more.
    We Guelphites have been through the once bitten twice shy exercise so many times with this administration there’s nothing left to chew on.
    Were just going to wait for 2014 and elect a group that represents the interests of the majority of Guelph’s citizens.
    .

    • jpphelan55@hotmail.com

      Anyone elected would be a huge improvement. Perhaps some of the local riff raff at the square down town would like to run for mayor and council…

    • jpphelan: I believe a couple of downtowners ran for mayor in 2010 and one of them received more than a 1,000 votes.

    • jpphelan55@hotmail.com

      That doesn’t surprise me in the least…..

  3. Sean

    Cambridge is part of Waterloo Region so SOME costs are bore across the board. Can;t compare apples to oranges and expect us to believe it.

    • Sean: You’re right, there are certain operations in the Region, specifically police and transit services, that the member cities do not manage. They still pay for it. I took care to compare the same services of the 110 Guelph staff to the 87 Cambridge staffers earning $100K plus. I did not include the police services. The point is that the Guelph $100K employees costs are higher than their Cambridge counterparts in most cases. The decision to pay these salaries, wages and benefits lies with the Farbridge administration and its staff advisors on matters of employment. The sad part is the horse is out of the barn as the city cannot roll-back staff increases that taxpayers must pay without large severance allowances. It is important to hire good people to do the job and pay them well. In Guelph’s case we may have been too generous. The next council will have to tackle this problem and it will be very difficult. Let me be clear, I am not critical of staff but of their remuneration that appears greater than the city’s peer group of similar sized municipalities. Hidden behind this is the growth of pay increases that creates increasing liability to taxpayers in terms of retirement benefits.

  4. Jerry

    Hi Gerry
    Another way the city waste money is sending the garbage truck around twice
    this morning to pick up the garbage around my area.(woodlawn,ferndale)
    I could not believe my eyes,the garbage truck(new one)come onto my street ‘and proceeded to pick up all the blue bins first then came around about a
    half hour later to pick up the green.
    Usually the truck picks up both at the same stop before proceeding to
    the next house.Not sure what happened today but i am sure the boss for
    the waste facility will come up with a dozy for this one.
    Maybe that is what the waste management boss meant about not having
    enough trucks on the road to properly seperate the garbage streams.And
    no matter what the garbage has to be removed so they use the old garbage
    trucks that load from the back.
    Thats okay the city has got tons of money….i mean with all the people
    working and paying their taxes there is tons to go around.
    hahahah(sorry about that i was laughing so hard i fell off my chair)hahah

    • jpphelan55@hotmail.com

      I wonder if like “Smarties” the take the red ones last???????

    • Jerry: Hope you didn’t hurt yourself. It is no laughing matter that staff costs have increased to a point where labour costs consume some 89 per cent of the tax-based revenues. Most of that falls on the shoulders of residential property owners as this administration has failed to increase industrial/commercial assessment in six years. The current ratio of 84 per cent residential assessment to 16 per cent industrial/commercial has not budged under Mayor Farbridge’s leadership. The ideal ratio is 60 per cent residential assessment to 40 per cent I and C. We are a long way from that. This administration’s policies have failed to even attract commercial assessment to its own $10 million Hanlon Business Park. A case in point was the Maple Leaf foods new plant that ended up in Puslinch township. It was offered to Guelph.

    • jpphelan55@hotmail.com

      Mayor Farbridge appears not to have the education or intellectual capacity needed to run and lead a city so why does any of this not surpirse me…..

    • jpphelan: While Mayor Farbridge is the head of the municipality, she cannot be blamed for all the errors in judgment. It’s spread around a conglomerate of council ideologues and senior staff who make decisions that bar the taxpayers from not only participating but being shut out entirely. The expression mushroom politics fits this administration to a tee. Keep them in the dark and they’ll go away. When no one knows the truth, it is easy to lie.

    • jpphelan55@hotmail.com

      Thanks Gerry.

  5. geo

    Excellent letter in the Merc about public “servant” compensation.

    Re: Community builder asks for help in video as she struggles with Parkinson’s disease — March 28

    A recent Mercury article highlighted the story of Sue Richards, who has Parkinson’s disease and was told she was “entitled to one hour of personal care per week — and there’s a one-year waiting list.”

    Meanwhile, Kevin Mercer, the former chief executive officer of the Waterloo Wellington Community Care Access Centre, the organization that arranges these home care services, received close to $500,000 in salary and benefits in 2012 for a little over six months work.

    It is estimated that $370,000 of this was a payout after his abrupt departure from the organization, which was precipitated by an operational review that concluded there was a failure of leadership at the highest levels, negatively impacting access to care, quality of care, and the livelihoods of front-line health-care workers.

    Over at the Waterloo Wellington Local Health Integration Network, in September 2010, then-CEO Sandra Hanmer was abruptly ousted from the organization for reasons that, to this date, have been kept secret by the provincial Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

    The public was shocked to learn that Hanmer received $271,861 in salary and benefits the year after her departure, according to the 2011 “sunshine list,” and then was astonished to see she was still on the list for 2012 to the tune of an additional $169,270.

    If you add at least a quarter of her 2010 earnings, Hanmer’s total post-employment payouts amount to more than $500,000 of taxpayers’ funds.

    Between the two of them, Hanmer and Mercer have collected more in post-employment payouts than a recently announced increase in funding to the entire local home care system. Both seem to have been rewarded for failure in doing their jobs. How can this be seen as acceptable?

    Now, consider the current interim CEO at the Waterloo Wellington Community Care Access Centre. According to the 2008 sunshine list, Barry Monaghan received $354,193 in salary and benefits as the CEO of the Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network. The problem is, media reports stated he resigned from this organization in November 2007. If so, why did he receive enormous post-employment payouts in 2008?

    There is something deplorably wrong with a health-care system that enables senior bureaucrats to enjoy huge post-employment payouts at taxpayers’ expense, no matter the circumstance, while the disabled, frail and elderly members of our community wait for care. This is not transparency or accountability, effective health-care delivery nor proper stewardship of public funds.

    Of course, this shameful practice that only benefits upper crust senior bureaucrats in the Ministry of Health could be easily stopped. Unfortunately, this would require political will, which appears absent under the current leadership.

    David William

    • jpphelan55@hotmail.com

      Well put David. Far far to high an income is dealt to the executive level employees which could and should be spent on those in need of care for whom the system was set up to help. Something wrong in the state of Denmark. I smell a very very large rat. It is a shame that this goes on in a wonderful country like Canada used to be. Proud to be a Canadian but ashamed and disappointed in the whole political system which allows this type of bureaucratic pilfering to take place. The citizens of Canada are tired of being raped by bureaucrats and a system that has created and maintains the existence of such.

    • geo:This letter is another example of how senior bureaucrats are positioned to feather their nests with contracts that contain excessive and unwarranted severance clauses. It all begins with timid elected officials who agree to contract terms that are not in the taxpayer’s interests. With a heavy concentration of senior public servants in the Guelph area earning more than $100,000, the problem is more acute. A key problem lies in the human resources management that recommend to elected officials contracts that exceed those in the private sector where performance measures remuneration. Of course there are exceptions, but the situation has been building for a number of years. It’s exacerbated by secrecy in which the taxpayers never know the terms and conditions of senior staff compensation. The result is most apparent in Guelph in which the details of senior staff contracts are never revealed. In fact, when the capable veteran Chief Financial Officer David Kennedy was severed along with the then Chief Administration Officer, Larry Kotseff, it took almost two years to pry the terms of severance through the Freedom of Information Act. This administration has allowed a huge growth of staff in the past six years as well as generous contracts to many. In the end, the taxpayers will pay for grossed up benefits and pensions long after the individual employees have retired, resigned or are fired.

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