Handley takes aim at staffing levels, salaries

A rookie councillor questioned the City of Red Deer staffing levels after hearing citizen concerns on the campaign trail during the first day of debating the 2014 municipal operating budget on Thursday.

Tanya Handley

A rookie councillor questioned the City of Red Deer staffing levels after hearing citizen concerns on the campaign trail during the first day of debating the 2014 municipal operating budget on Thursday.

Coun. Tanya Handley questioned the $3.7 million item allocated for increased to staff salaries and benefits and the number of staff.

Handley said the root of her questioning comes from what she heard from residents while campaigning and information from the Red Deer Tax Payers’ Association.

“There’s perception out in the community about the percentage of growth in our staff of (1,400) and just 11 years ago the number was 823,” said Handley.

She said the staff growth compared to the population growth with inflation seems quite exponential.

Fourth-term Coun. Lynne Mulder said this issue comes up every year during budget time. Mulder said this may be an issue that the city should look at communicating better to the public the reasoning behind the staffing levels.

“I think we’re doing well,” said Mulder. “I think 40 per cent is to be envied by any municipality.”

Coun. Dianne Wyntjes said it is interesting to look at the pay study information. She said the city provides competitive wages and the city should never chastize itself for having good standards.

“Seeing how our city has grown, if you see how our city was 10 years ago, it is a lot different than it was 10 years ago. We are in the operation of providing service and responding to our citizens’ needs,” Wyntjes said.

Coun. Lawrence Lee said taking staffing into context of the entire operating budget it may give better light to the bigger picture as not really being a significant number of dollars over the base amount.

Other councillors weighed in, saying as the city grows and builds new facilities, more staff are required to provide the new services.

Staffing accounts for 40 per cent of the municipal budget.

City manager Craig Curtis said the increases in staff have a lot to do with changes in service. He said there are some services that have been contracted out and some have been brought in-house including legal and planning services because it was more efficient.

The figure is slightly higher this year because of the unsettled firefighter union contracts. The figure has built in provisions is expected to diminish when the contracts are settled.

Some concerns were raised over another Ipsos Reid study to the tune of $14,000 and an additional $35,000 to hire a consultant as part of the Dialogue Charter to help improve engagement between the city and the public.

Coun. Ken Johnston said a budget is always about value for money and a service level.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a big number or a small number,” said Johnston. “It has to fit into the larger vision of the city. When we bring up things like the engagement piece, small number but it has huge implications for the direction that the city is going in. (This) means we are committed to better public engagement and better public awareness . . . A small amount of money, but a big vision. It gauges the temperature of council when you bring that kind of issue up.”

Johnston said the staff and the councillors live and breath the community.

“We already do one survey,” said Johnston. “Really what is it going to tell us? We’re probably going to get back what we know already.”

Lee raised concerns about using dollars effectively on items like the Dialogue Charter without having all the pieces of the puzzle. The $35,000 line item will be reviewed again after a council workshop and approval of the terms of reference.

Debate on the proposed $305-million operating budget with a projected 3.98 per cent tax increase continues today. The first item on the agenda is the snow and ice funding requests.

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com

Just Posted

Alberta hiring more paramedics and buying new ambulances, none for Red Deer

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer is not concerned the provincial government didn’t… Continue reading

‘My nightmare began again’: Close call as bus carrying Humboldt crash survivor rear-ended

CALGARY — A terrifying ordeal for Humboldt Broncos survivor Ryan Straschnitzki this… Continue reading

Halifax airport operations normalize after Boeing 747 runway overshoot

HALIFAX — The Halifax Stanfield International Airport has resumed normal operations a… Continue reading

Bentley family left without a home grateful for community support

Central Albertans are coming together to support a Bentley family left homeless… Continue reading

Red Deer RCMP ready for new mandatory alcohol screening law

Red Deer RCMP are ready to enforce a new law intended to… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer and District Kennel Club Dog Show at Westerner Park

The Red Deer and District Kennel Club is holding a dog show… Continue reading

Pence aide out of running to be Trump’s next chief of staff

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s top pick to replace chief of staff… Continue reading

Swath of South faces wintry mess: Snow, sleet, freezing rain

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A massive storm brought snow, sleet, and freezing rain… Continue reading

‘I killed my best friend’: Opioids’ fatal grip on mayor, pal

MOUNT CARBON, Pa. — Janel Firestone found her son — the 24-year-old,… Continue reading

Brothers, 20, face second-degree murder charge in death of teen: police

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Police west of Toronto say two brothers have been… Continue reading

A young mayor, his friend, and a fatal attraction to opioids

MOUNT CARBON, Pa. — Janel Firestone found her son — the 24-year-old,… Continue reading

GM fights to retain key tax credit amid plant closing plans

WASHINGTON — General Motors is fighting to retain a valuable tax credit… Continue reading

TTC union asks provincial government to step in on transition to Presto

TORONTO — The union representing transit workers in Canada’s most populous city… Continue reading

Small pot growers find roadblocks on path to microcultivation licences

Yan Boissonneault’s daughter was turning blue. Without warning, his baby had stopped… Continue reading

Most Read