Posted March 23
Just eight days from now, there are two major pocketbook events that will affect the lives of all Guelph citizens.
The first is the March 31st deadline for council to approve the 2015 budget. Plans call for this to actually occur March 25 however; plans can change with events and politics. Regardless, the law requires the city to approve the annual budget by March 31st.
The second event is the publishing, by the Province, of the 2014 Sunshine list. It names every municipal public employee in the 444 Ontario Municipalities, earning a base salary of $100,000 or more plus, the taxable benefits. The lists for all those employees making that salary must be submitted to the Province by March 5th.
So it is understandable that the new council has already received the finance department’s list of those Guelph civic employees earning $100,000 or more in 2014. On March 31, you can download the 2014 Sunshine list of names at: www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/publications/salarydisclosure/pssd/.
Lets step back a bit to examine the 2013 Sunshine List, the last one reported. It is natural that there has to be a three-month period at the beginning of each year to gather and assemble this Sunshine information for the previous year.
In 2013, the city had 200 employees earning more than $100.000. In addition and separate from the list, it named 55 Guelph police officers and police civilian employees earning $100,000, or more.
This was an increase of 22 over 2012 or 12.3 per cent.
As an educated guess the 2014 Sunshine list could number 224. We’ll know March 31.
On the city employee’s list, the top earner was Chief Administration Officer, Ann Pappert, who made $214,605.59 in 2013, plus taxable benefits of $6,3217.28. The taxable benefit number seems puzzling given that she received a moving allowance of $20,000 to move from Waterloo to Guelph. It may show up in the 2014 Sunshine report.
If she chose to roll the moving bonus to an RRSP which is perfectly legal, the taxpayers of Guelph added $20,000 to her retirement accounts and she received a deduction for the extra contribution. That’s a great double header!
You cannot blame Ms. Pappert for this largess. Most members of council approved it. It is ironic that the 12 elected members of council, are paid part-time wages annually of $33,000 for performing almost a full-time job. The mayor is the only full-time elected employee. Is there something wrong with this picture?
Gregory Thomas, national director of the Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation (CTF), was quoted last year “People working outside government in real Ontario are scrambling for every dime. More and more public workers are working in jobs that do not warrant six figure salaries.”
The CTF produced a report in mid-2013 about how 20 Ontario cities were controlling their employee costs, particularly the growing number of those earning more than $100,0000 a year. The study showed that Guelph ranked 18th out of 20 in managing to keep those costs under control.
With the growth of city staff of more than 550 full-time equivalent employees in seven years of the Farbridge administration, it’s not difficult to see the exponential growth of higher wages and benefits. This annual Sunshine lists prove that Guelph has not been able to contain the growth of its $100,000 salaried employees.
That’s why 85 per cent of all property tax revenues are spent on city staff costs including pensions, accumulating unused sick leave plus vacation benefits, and healthcare. In addition there is a list of 20 other benefits given to each employee some of which are taxable..
It is easy to understand why Guelph placed 18 out of 20 Ontario cities that were controlling their employee costs, particularly those earning $100,000 a year.
The staff ‘s 2015 budget proposal included spending $246,000 hiring two senior asset managers in 2015.
That’s one item that could be eliminated and considered in the 2016 budget.