Staffing levels: ‘the elephant in the room’

Campbell River city council requested a staff report outlining options to cut staffing to save $247,000

Council wants city staff to look into downsizing city hall.

At its financial planning meeting Tuesday night, council requested a staff report outlining options to cut staffing to save $247,000.

At the beginning of the session, Coun. Andy Adams wanted cuts of up to $500,000 but by the end of the evening, that amount was reduced to reflect the service cuts made throughout the meeting.

“The intent of the motion is not going year to year but solving the problem on a regular basis,” Adams said.

Originally, Mayor Walter Jakeway put a motion on the floor to cut $800,000 out of the city’s 2012 budget through salary reductions.

But council nixed that idea, saying it would affect the service level that residents have come to expect.

“It is the elephant in the room, in my opinion,” said Coun. Claire Moglove. “We just went through an 18-month SOCP (Sustainable Official Community Plan) process…and from the 1,500 people that came to those sessions I heard that they want a liveable city; they want quality. If we reduce staffing it has to impact services.”

Coun. Ryan Mennie said council will have to increase taxes if the community wants to keep its services.

“First I have to emphasize what some folks want to forget – we’re dealing with a shortfall we saw coming,” said Mennie who noted that during his election campaign he did not give any false illusions.

“I did not go out into the community raising false expectations,” Mennie said, alluding to Jakeway’s election platform. “It’s not possible to have a zero per cent tax increase. To go with having a zero per cent tax increase would be like having the arm or the leg of the city chopped off. It wouldn’t be fair for people to think zero per cent is possible.”

The city is how facing a $2.4 million deficit, which if borne entirely by residential tax payers, would equal a 16.04 per cent increase, or $190.94 per year for the average household.

Council has chipped away at the original $3.6 million deficit through a series of financial planning meetings which began at the end of January. On Tuesday night, council made further changes to balance the 2012 budget.

Council reduced curbside yard waste collection from eight months to four (two months each spring and fall) in order to re-allocate approximately $100,000 for general operations. The yard waste drop-off centre on Wei Wai Kai Nation land will remain open year-round.

Council also adopted a 100 per cent increase in park user fees (expected to generate $9,000 charged primarily to sports field user groups and for park rentals) and eliminated a 50 per cent discount for city staff, council and their families to use city facilities, such as the Sportsplex. Council also chose to allocate $300,000 from the city’s gaming reserve in 2012 to fund seasonal programs such as Centennial Pool.

Council’s next financial planning meeting is scheduled for March 27, 6:30 p.m. at city hall. The meeting is open to the public. Council welcomes input from the public into the budget. Share your comments and questions by e-mail at info@campbellriver.ca through an online form at www.campbellriver.ca/CustomerFeedback or by letter to: City Hall, 301 St. Ann’s Road, Campbell River, B.C., V9W 4C7.