Tag Archives: Fair Pensions for All

Guelph’s financial dilemma is rooted in high staff costs

By Gerry Barker

Posted November 17, 2015

It’s the dirty big secret that is driving up costs and so far, council does not want to tackle it.

It’s the untouchable cost of running a city after nine years of non-stop wages and benefits grow exponentially exceeding the Consumer Price index (CPI) by a country mile. Throw in the more than 400 new, fulltime equivalent employees added in that time, and taxpayers are being forced to ante up every year to keep up.

The truth is that 80 per cent of the property tax levies goes to pay the city staff.

So when the staff submits its estimate of the property tax increase for 2016 of 1.58 per cent to city council, it is a mythical figure that has little basis of reality. It’s the equivalent of the workers at Linamar telling the management how much they think it’s going to cost to produce car parts.

So they scare council’s Farbridge majority by saying the Guelph Transit fares are going up and weekend and holiday service will be reduced to save $1.5 million.

Compared to the 2013 Guelph Transit overtime bill of more than $5 million, that’s chicken feed.

Oh, woe is me! Says Coun. Phil Allt who again, insists Guelph has to get cars off the road and only public transit is the answer. So the left-brain cramp of some members of council, is maintaining the “war on cars” that beats on in an addled manner.

It’s all part of the senior staff game to serve and protect … their interests, not those who must pay the bills. And there are a number of senior managers that don’t even live or pay taxes in Guelph.

In the past ten years, the growth of Guelph city staff exceeded the growth of our population by 85 per cent.

And it’s not just occurring in Guelph.

A report by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) says in part that: “We have been hearing about cities having a revenue problem, but it’s clear it’s a spending problem they are dealing with,” said Laura Jones, CFIB executive vice president.

The CFIB report states that a municipal employee in Canada is paid 22 per cent more than an employee in the private sector doing the same job.

“When you look closely, it’s easy to see employee compensation is the root of the municipal spending problem,” said Nina Gormanns, co-author of the report.

This report comes in concert with the Fair Pensions for All organization that has been warning municipalities, for many years of the risks of increasing the size of staff and the increasing benefits paid to those workers.

In fact, the organization presented a documented report to the former Farbridge council, indicating the growing pension liabilities the city was facing. It was ignored and a number of Farbridge followers ridiculed the findings.

So the staff strategy is to use Guelph Transit as the target to reduce costs instead of recommending staff reductions. The city recently commissioned a consultant report to review city operations.

The BMA municipal consultants are not unfamiliar with the way our city is being managed, having done a similar report in 2011 that cost $480,442 to complete.

This year’s report gives the city operations a passing grade in almost all aspects except for a “cautionary red flag” on the underfunded reserves. Once in a while it is right to speak the truth.

You cannot raid three reserve funds to pay a lawsuit liability of $8.96 million without a firm plan to pay the money back. In approving the 2015 budget last March 25, Coun. Karl Wettstein, the elder statesman of the Farbridge Seven on council, made a motion to reduce the $900,000 scheduled repayment to the reserve funds to $500,000. That passed.

Councillors Wettstein, Leanne Piper and June Hofland were on the Farbridge council that witnessed the firing in September 2008 of Urbacon Buildings Group, Corp., the general contractor of the new City hall.

They have never accepted responsibility for that action that triggered a $23 million overrun of the project. For that matter, neither has the former mayor ever admitted any responsibility.

The people understood and voted the mayor out of office.

So when the 2016 budget is approved in December, don’t be surprised if it is another 3.5 per cent increase of property taxes, plus user fees and more staff.

You read it here first.





Filed under Between the Lines

GrassRoots Guelph shares employee cost concerns with Saint John, New Brunswick


Check out the above link and learn how Guelph and Saint John share similar concerns about the rising cost of public employees and the long term fallout for citizens in both cities.

GrassRoots Guelph (GRG), the independent citizen’s group, has protested the City of Guelph operations since last August. The group researched and presented a petition to the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing requesting an audit of the city’s finances and operations.

The well-documented four-page petition was presented to the Minister on October 1st, 2013. In a subsequent meeting with the MMAH staff, the data and numbers contained in the petition were confirmed as being accurate.

The Minister recently announced that she would not proceed with the audit request instead saying her officials would facilitate a meeting between GRG and city officials. GRG has requested the Ministry to negotiate the terms and structure for such a meeting.

GrassRoots Guelph and guelphspeaks.ca are pleased that we are not alone in Guelph when city government spends and taxes to the detriment of the city population.

There is now ample proof that the majority of Guelph council are supported by the nine labour unions currently making up 80 per cent of the city staff. With a civic election next October 27, the labour unions are gearing up to support their candidates in the election with money and boots on the ground.

The intent is to have candidates who support the current administration to continue the seven- year leftist programs that the public did not vote for or wanted.

GRG believes that employee costs are out of control and a key cause of the soaring city debt excessive spending plus taxes and user fees among the highest in Ontario. GRG is dedicated to changing the way our city is being managed.

Join grassrootsguelph.com today and participate in a growing organization to elect a council that is responsive to all the people and not the chosen few.

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March 26, 2014 · 10:32 am