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Strathcona Regional District staff piling up overtime, unused vacation

The Strathcona Regional District is chronically understaffed and staff are not able to meet core service requirements, they are missing out on their vacation time and are working significant overtime hours, a recent report reveals.

The report from Chief Administrative Officer Russ Hotsenpiller recommends the regional district add two new staffing positions to help pick up the slack. The organization currently employs five senior managers.

“Current staff levels are impacting productivity of the organization and the goals and direction of the regional board,” Hotsenpiller writes in his report. “If a core employee is sick for an extended period of time, or an employee leaves the organization, work in that area stops. As such, the organization has limited alternatives and is operationally vulnerable. It is proposed that two new full-time equivalent positions be staffed in 2014.”

Those positions are a full-time special projects co-ordinator to address what Hotsenpiller calls a “gap in expertise and capacity” at the policy development level.

The $102,400 position would help support land use planning, corporate services, legal matters, recreation or finance on an as needed basis.

The second position is a $83,200 full-time board services co-ordinator, a position working out of the chief administrative officer’s office to support elected directors and help the chief administrative officer with executive duties.

Hotsenpiller said the two positions will address the most pressing staff needs.

Hotsenpiller acknowledged that staff are challenged to meet the daily work load, project work and the board’s strategic priorities and the work plan is consistently behind schedule.

Hotsenpiller said staff often cannot take their allocated vacation days and the regional district is going to be faced with either a large payout or vacation entitlement too large to administer.

Staff are also working significant amounts of overtime that is not paid.

“The organization is currently understaffed at the corporate level and is unable to consistently meet core service deliverables,” Hotsenpiller said. “This situation is not new and is not the result of a sudden increase in work load, rather it is a chronic situation that is becoming more acute.”

Hotsenpiller noted that the regional district has been very conservative when it comes to staffing levels.

“Staffing requests to the SRD board have historically been modest and there has been but a single new position added to the organization since 2009,” Hotsenpiller added. “The original organization chart adopted by the board in 2009 has not been filled. Central to the current workload situation is whether the SRD was adequately staffed initially or could have benefited from additional positions from the outset.”

While financial statements from 2008, when the Strathcona Regional District was established, do not show how many employees the organization employed, it does reveal that no employees made more than $75,000 a year and the total combined salary of all employees was $1.6 million.

In 2012, the regional district paid seven employees a salary of more than $75,000 a year and paid out $2.81 million combined to employees which made less than $75,000 annually.

The top earners were former Chief Administrative Officer Brian Reardon ($136,300 annually), Dawn Christenson, financial services manager, ($104,361), and Russ Hotsenpiller, then the community services manager, ($101,232).

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