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Council explains wage increases and overtime for senior staff

City council has come under fire lately for wage increases to senior staff since 2015 and overtime paid to senior staff during last year’s influx of evacuees. Council has released the following explaining those increases.

In June, Council approved the 2017 Statement of Financial Information (SOFI) for the City of Prince George. These documents are produced annually by local governments and are required by provincial law. Together with the Annual Report, SOFI provides the public with comprehensive information on the activities of the municipality and the costs associated with the delivery of City services.

2017 was an exceptional year. As we’ve said before, the Cariboo wildfires essentially resulted in this City looking after another whole city for a large part of the summer. On top of this, the City of Prince George SOFI report for 2017 identifies more than $44 million in capital expenditures. These included road rehabilitation, a water main twinning project to the Hart, and the redevelopment of Masich Place Stadium. More information on 2017 activities and priorities for 2018 is also outlined in the 2017 Annual Report that Council also approved earlier this year.

Emergency Response

The City’s SOFI submission in 2017 includes close to $4 million in one-time costs related to the Cariboo Wildfire response. Prince George welcomed more than 10,000 evacuees during the emergency – more than any other BC community. For 70 days between July 8 and September 16, 2017, the City coordinated the delivery of Emergency Support Services on behalf of the Province of BC. These services included registering evacuees, distributing grocery vouchers, coordinating and providing accommodations, providing shuttle services within the community, and putting services and systems into place that ensured the safety, security, and emotional and physical well-being of evacuees.

More than 500 City staff worked nearly 35,000 hours in support of the wildfire response. Approximately 40% of those hours were worked during regular time. Overtime was paid according to the existing CUPE and IAFF (International Association of Firefighters) collective agreements, and the Exempt Employee Overtime Administrative Procedure. More than 80 short-term employment contracts were also issued during the wildfire response, most frequently for security. The total of all labour costs (regular time and OT) associated with the wildfire response was $2.34 million – just under 4% of the total City payroll in 2017. This amount is being reimbursed by the Province of BC, in addition to $1.5 million in materials and services incurred during the wildfire response.

Provincial legislation identifies that local governments must plan for the provision of food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and medical services during emergencies and disasters so that they can be ready to respond on behalf of the Province. In return, the Province supports local governments and funds all of the incremental costs associated with emergencies.

In 2017, the City response was coordinated by an Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) led by the City Manager with the support of the Fire Chief and General Manager of Community Services. The EOC is staffed by senior administration and the Deputy Fire Chiefs because of their ability to quickly coordinate and deploy large numbers of employees, equipment, and other resources. During the summer of 2017, the Prince George EOC often also included representatives from other agencies (usually Northern Health and the RCMP). The first EOC meeting related to the wildfire response was held on July 8; the last one was August 30.

The 2017 wildfire response was unprecedented for Prince George. The City’s approach was to provide a high level of service and support to evacuees and Council is extremely grateful to the staff and to the thousands of Prince George residents who contributed to the effort. Clearly, while the City was chiefly responsible for the evacuation response in 2017, the magnitude and duration of the 2017 emergency required the participation of various organizations and volunteers. Simply put, the wildfire response involved hundreds of City staff, thousands of volunteers, the Government of BC, First Nations, businesses, the Red Cross, and public-sector organizations (namely Northern Health, the College, School District 57, and the University) working together.

Administrative Structure and Compensation

While Council is the governing body for the City, the staff is led by a chief administrative officer who manages the operations of the municipality. In Prince George, our City Manager is joined by a senior leadership team of General Managers and Directors who oversee the City’s departments. While the general managers have broader portfolios than the directors, these functions all contribute to the strategic operation of the City and all have a functional reporting relationship to the City Manager.

The current structure was established in 2015 and has been described in recent annual reports. It’s on page 6 of the 2017 Annual Report.

Each of these two groups has its own salary “pay band” such that all of the general managers are paid the same, and all of the directors are paid the same. In 2017, the salary range for general managers was $171,255 – $188,811. The salary range for directors was $158,584 – $174,830. These are set by the City Manager, based on similar positions from comparable municipalities. By 2017, all of the individuals in the director and general manager positions had progressed through the range of their salary pay bands.

The City Manager’s salary in 2017 was $237,487. This is set by Council and, again, is informed by a comparison with other municipalities. 

It’s a Council policy that the City must provide its exempt employees with competitive, market-based compensation.

Note that, starting on page 8, the 2017 SOFI report presents total remuneration for employees who earned more than $75,000. Remuneration includes salary, vacation payouts, taxable benefits, and overtime compensation. Many of these numbers are inflated for 2017 because of the wildfire response. The actual 2017 general wage adjustments were 2% for CUPE members, 2.5% for firefighters, and 1.5% for exempt staff.

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