Posted December 10, 2013
Tracking the flurry of announcements coming out of I Carden Street these days, one can only assume that Mayor Farbridge and her seven cohorts are in full election mode. And we still have ten months before the October 27 election day. It’s a mixed bag of goodies and bad news. Rule: Always get rid of the bad news long before the election because people forget.
Let’s start with the announcement by Mark Amorosi, Executive Director of Corporate and Human Resources, that non-union and management employees (NUME) will include changes to the progressive pay system that ties in an evaluation of performance. Details are vague except the giving of three personal days.
The cost of the proposed increases is to be adopted by Council at its December 16 meeting and exceed $500,000. So here we have a relatively small group of some 230 (albeit most are in the high income bracket) employees out of 2,065, getting a generous bite of the taxpayer’s apple for next year.
This administration is so dependent on the staff that it has awarded not only egregious staff increases in pay and benefits but in the numbers of hires in the past seven years.
The result of this largess by city council is that total staff costs consume some 84 per cent of the total annual budget. Yes folks, that’s the whole city of Guelph’s annual spending! Amorosi claims the increases are necessary to stay competitive with rates paid to employees in other municipalities.
Do the math. Staff costs of 84 percent of the approved 2014 budget of $193 million is $162,200,000. Remember that figure while we parse some of the other costs next year.
For the record, the recent dismissal of three senior staff at the Ontario Power Generation, for excessive pay increases and bonuses, still left that huge organization with more than 9,000 employees costing only 58 per cent of its annual budget.
Consider the $34 million police headquarters that will be built regardless of what the taxpayers think. The Farbridge majority will ensure it. Then we have the cost of repairing the CNR railway overpass so that truck traffic doesn’t keep hitting it because of an engineering mistake.
Or what will be the outcome of the lawsuits generated when the city threw the main contractor off the job that was 95 per cent completed? Judgment in this case should be made shortly and it could cost the city upwards of $19 million. Lurking in the background is the legal costs defending the lawsuits. We may never learn those costs because of the cloak of secrecy that prevents public access.
The hiring of a Toronto consultant to develop a plan for open and transparent government is truly puzzling after the Farbridge administration has been operating behind closed doors for seven years. That exercise is costing $100,000 of taxpayer money. It shakes one’s confidence in our administration that they needed an outside consultant to advise how to open their ongoing can of worms.
The Farbridge administration is dedicated to long-range planning. Take the ten-year plan to add more bicycle lanes to the city that will cost $13.3 million. A recent letter to the editor, written by a cyclist, complained that plan was wasting money and not needed. A sentiment shared by 99 per cent of the adult population of the city.
Another beauty is the 20-year solid waste management plan. That is being hand-held by a team of consultants who have conducted an open house, contacted some 400 residents for their opinion and are planning another open house. This kind of action is pure Farbridge. She can then say we consulted the public but in most cases they just plow ahead and do what they want at your expense. We have never been told the cost of the first solid waste plan. Yet it clearly demonstrates that it doesn’t work. Witness some $53 million in capital spending for a composting plant that was built three times greater than the city’s need for the next 20 years and a cart waste collecting system, plus operating costs.
Then we come to the Downtown Secondary Plan. Another grand strategic plan to fulfill the Farbridge dream of a “vibrant and exciting” downtown Guelph. Once again the costs are buried. But a couple of items have been revealed. One is the deal made to the company that reconstructed the Gummer Building. For saving the fascia of the original building that was destroyed by fire. The owners received a ten-year tax holiday
To accelerate residential development downtown, the administration offered a ten-year delay in payment of development fees to a London, Ontario developer who is now building multi-storey condominiums in the downtown area. Those differed costs will be tacked on to the owners condo fees once the 10 years expire as the builder moves on.
This sweetheart deal totally ignored how residents in those buildings will cope with the new cart waste collection system. The city already refuses to collect waste from a variety of some 6,400 condo households. Now they are bringing on stream an estimated 1,500 new condo households where there is no available storage for the carts or room to pick up.
Remember the overtime attendance report by the internal auditor that estimates it will cost the city $5,067,000 in 2013? That’s equal to $2,453 for each of the 2,065 city employees reported in the 2012 human resources annual report.
You see the city human resources department plays games with the numbers of employees. Coun. Gloria Kovach tried to get Amorosi to break out the total numbers of employees and was shot down twice by an irritated mayor. The category FTE or Fulltime Equivalent Employee is disguised to cover up the total number of employees. In 2012 there were 847 “other” employees in addition to the full-time employees but the HR annual report failed to break them out by category such as part-time, casual, contract fulltime/part-time.
This is only scratching the surface on how our city has been taken over by a group of activists and ideologues that have little respect for the taxpayers. They just keep milking the public purse to meet their personal agendas.
The administration has agreed to spend $200,000 setting up a city forestry department to increase the leafy canopy of Guelph from 20 percent to 40 per cent. Or hire a “Public Affairs Officer” to interface with other governments including provincial, federal and neighbouring Wellington County, What are we, a city state?
In recent years, there has been little opposition to the administration. The local daily primarily toadies to the administration while the twice-weekly tabloid occasionally breaks ranks and reports the news important to taxpayers. Both papers are part of the TorStar group of companies.
Since last August the new citizen’s group, GrassRoots Guelph (GRG), has stood up to the Farbridge administration producing critical commentary and news through its website and the guelphspeaks.ca blog. GRG is an incorporated, non-partisan, non-profit organization run entirely citizen volunteers.
If you believe there is evidence of careless spending and waste of resources by our city administration, then join the growing membership through the GRG website GrassRootsGuelph.com.
GRG is dedicated to informing the taxpayers and working toward increasing the numbers of citizens to vote in the 2014 civic election.
The GRG motto is: If you don’t vote, you don’t count.