Do our residents know how much public employees actually make?

as the mayor sees it with District of Barriere mayor Bill Humphreys - public employees

Recently a report commissioned by the Province of BC was leaked to the public. The report was done by Ernst & Young.

The mandate of the report was: In November 2013, the Province of British Columbia engaged Ernst & Young to conduct a review of recent trends in compensation across the BC Public Sector and to assess the current models for setting mandates and management and executive compensation. The Province required that the review foremost consider the role of taxpayers, as well as recognize the need for leadership and talent in the BC Public Sector.

In the Executive Summary it was stated: There is clear variation in models used for setting compensation across the BC Public Sector. Compared to the Provincial level of Government, local Government compensation is not coordinated (or regulated); there are no limits other than what local Governments determine the sector can bear; and there are less transparency requirements. This has resulted in a lack of alignment in compensation between levels and also across the Sector.

I find a number of things interesting in just these two portions at the beginning of the report. First off Ernst & Young were to do the review considering foremost the role of the taxpayers. An interesting concept don’t you think? The Province is actually asking for a review of how the money from taxpayers is being spent on running the business of government and Crown Corporations across the Province. That includes local governments.

That brings me to the second point. It seems someone found out that the current local government models of compensation have no limits other than what the sector can bear with less transparency requirements. In other words, local government can pay what they feel like and have virtually no mandated requirement to report to the local taxpayer. Currently the District of Barriere only reports on two employees ,both of whom earn more than $70, 000 a year.

I suspect that the vast majority of residents in many communities across B.C., as well as the Councils that represent those residents have little knowledge of what the local public sector employees actually make. In many communities Council is not consulted when new staff are hired nor are they given input into what the wages of employees should be past being given the overall budget figures. In my mind this does not meet even the minimal levels of transparency taxpayers should expect.

I am not saying Council should be interfering into the operational side of local government. What I am saying is that staff in all communities should operate in such a manner so that it is Council that approves these wages, not senior staff.

In communities where the staff are represented by a union the Council or Regional District board members have the ability to set the parameters of negotiations. The negotiated settlements are a matter of public record. In communities where the employees are nonunion it would seem there is very little drive to reveal what the year over year increases in wages are.

This is patently wrong. The process needs to change. The report done by Ernst & Young found that local government staff wages have far exceeded what the market could or should bear. There is little or no room in any community’s budget for large wage increases but it seems that they happen.

There was a very long discussion around this topic at the Mayor’s Caucus held during the Union of BC Municipalities convention in Whistler this past week. I understand that there were also discussions around the report at the various CAO gatherings held during the convention as well. I can only hope the two sets of discussions will come together at some point particularly for the smaller communities like ours.

Open and honest communication with residents is the only way for Council to do business. Residents have a right to know where their money is being spent. Residents also have a right to have those that represent them and the senior management staff to act in a responsible manner. Giving large wage increases and increasing budget levels year over year is not responsible nor is it sustainable.

There is truly only one taxpayer.