It happened literally at the 11th hour. It was just after 11 p.m. Monday night when the Statement of Financial Information came up on city council’s agenda. That’s the annual report listing, among things, how much city staff is paid. Every staff member who makes more than $75,000, all 327 of them, is listed by name, job title, how much they got paid in salary, overtime, holiday payout, expenses and whatever else.
It’s a detailed report.
It’s also been the focus of much scrutiny over the past year as debate in the community has raged over how much senior staff actually gets paid. It was a jaw-dropping revelation for everyone in town, other than the folks at City Hall, to learn that senior, salaried, staff were also eligible for overtime and cashed in when there was an influx of wildfire evacuees in 2017.
Kudos to Coun. Teri McConnachie for, even at the 11th hour when everyone was likely a bit weary after five hours of deliberating at the council table, to request a report comparing what Prince George senior staff gets paid to what senior staff in other similar-sized municipalities get paid.
It’s kind of strange that this hasn’t already been done, given the city loves to look what other communities are doing for just about everything else.
“Folks might be surprised at what they find there,” McConnachie said.
True enough, but will it be a good surprise or a bad one? We’ll have to wait and see.
McConnachie suggested that more than just staff wages be compared and that similar departments are also looked at. That makes sense because are we any further ahead if wages are in check but departments are bloated?
The move to compare wage scales with other communities isn’t a perfect solution, but it is a step in the right direction. It’s easy to be aghast over the fact city manager Kathleen Soltis earns $256,000 per year and it’s city council’s job to defend that wage, and others. To do that they need information. Maybe council should strike and independent committee to look at senior staff wages, like they did when it came time to look at councillors’ stipends.
Getting a look at what’s going on in other communities will, if nothing else, keep the conversation going … and that’s what needs to happen.
The community has sent a pretty clear message it’s not happy with wages of senior staff so council either has to change those wages, or be able to defend them. Getting comparables helps either path.