On the penultimate day of operating budget deliberations, council took aim at its own compensation, and that of the City manager, freezing their salaries for 2017.
Both were proposals by Councillor Lawrence Lee, who said it was important that City leadership do its part to keep the tax base to a minimum.
“We’re no different from any other organization. I don’t think any organization in Alberta right now is going to go and say they anticipate giving raises to their staff,” Lee said.
Freezing the salaries of mayor, council and City manager will save $13,000.
Lee also made an unsuccessful motion to freeze the salaries of about 150 non-unionized workers for six months in 2017. These positions range from entry-level staff to those on the corporate leadership team. Salaries for this group ranges between $51,000 and $195,000.
When asking for council support, Lee said he was asking staff who were “fortunate” to be employed in the current economy to, “Help their fellow Red Deerians out.”
Councillor Paul Harris said it was important for the City to remain competitive for qualified workers, that he’d rather keep them and reduce the costs of training new ones. He added the pay freeze would narrow the gap between managers and union workers.
“When you hold the management wages down, people will leave,” Harris said. “We’ve lost good people in the organization over the last couple of years, who’ve gone to other places.”
Council also passed Harris’ proposed cap on hiring operational staff at 2017 levels.
Earlier in the meeting, council approved a new protective services division, at a reduced cost.
“We achieved the cost savings by not having a new director, by essentially not having a new executive assistant. We do create a new advocacy position but overall, over the original proposal, … it represents a savings of $230,000 over two years from the budget as submitted,” said City Manager Craig Curtis.
The plan brings RCMP, municipal enforcement, EMS, corporate security into one administrative area.
Mayor Tara Veer said the restructuring allows the City to operate its services related to public safety more efficiently and with greater emphasis.
“Previously it had been an important part of a portfolio but it was one file on the corner of the desk,” Veer said.
Council also made open a list of additional cost savings that were discussed in camera.
With the day’s changes, the tax rate increase is down to 1.75%, comprising of a 1.01% capital contribution, 0.44% operating expenses and 0.30% impact of the carbon tax.
Of note, Councillor Ken Johnston had been absent from the budget meeting due to extenuating personal circumstances.