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"Ever wonder if City Council is as contentious and chaotic as it is sometimes portrayed? Here you can get a progressive perspective on some of the issues from someone who spent four years in the trenches. Totally unbiased, though! Feel free to comment but keep it respectful, just like they do at council."

Monday, January 17, 2011

Just make the damn cuts, Joe

Who is responsible for making the cuts for a tax freeze?

So, Joe is having a little meltdown because the Library Board and the Transit Commission sent back a list of possible cuts for Council’s consideration and selection. (See the related LFP article here.)

What were they asked to do?

This is the resolution passed at Council on December 20, 2010: “all civic boards, commissions and agencies BE REQUESTED to bring forward a list of salary and wage savings, vacancy management savings and potential service cuts with the 2011-2015 budget impacts and service implications.”

That is what they did. The respective managements of the two bodies provided a list of the possibilities and their impacts. There was no indication that the board members and commissioners were required to select from the list, nor to recommend a specific course of action.

The motion goes on to say that “the combined list of service cuts be reviewed by the Municipal Council in terms of impact on the tax levy for 2011-2015 and the impact on service levels and asset management, and those service cuts BE TESTED by the Municipal Council through the public participation process (January 29 and February 2,2011)”.

To me that says “Give us a list of possibilities, we’ll check it over, present it to the public for comment, and then we’ll decide.”

So what’s Mayor Fontana’s problem?

He got what he wanted. And the boards and commissions that gave him those lists were (if I counted correctly) comprised equally of councillors and public members.

Or does he need someone else to take the rap for the outcome if things go wrong?

The police have come forward with a possible $700,000 by finding an extra little pot of gold (where did that come from?) and delaying additional hiring for a few months. The mayor finds that “gratifying”. That was on a budget request of $84 million! And they still haven’t figured in the cost of wage settlements.

The Library was expected to come up with the same size of cut on a budget request of $17 million.

LTC was expected to find savings of $1.7 million on a $22 million dollar ask. Not exactly small change in your back pocket.

The library is operating on a shoestring. Our transit system is as efficient as any you can find in Ontario. Their managers are taking cuts, not getting raises. Bus drivers and librarians don’t get retention pay. And they are not hiring new staff, just trying to hold on to what they had in 1995.

The Library Board and the LTC met the targets that were set for them before the election; the Police Services Board, even with its offering of $700,000, has not.

The zero tax increase is a campaign promise made by some councillors and, yes, the newly elected mayor.

Just make the damn cuts, Joe.


Tim Felsky said...

I think its important for a new mayor to take a measured approach to budget cuts. These cuts poorly implemented will hurt worse than they have to. I believe Joe is a seasoned manager weather or not you agree with his politics. We're only 50 days in.

Graeme Meyer said...

reviewing previous budget documents and budgets of similar sized municipalities may provide some context for the numbers. attended the police services budget meeting this morning and they are still forecasting a budget increase between 2%-3% and hiring 5 new front-line officers and 5 civilians

Why's woman said...

In case there are new readers or readers without a sense of satire, Gina's title is a take off of Mayor Joe's comment prior to actually becoming mayor, when he waded into the leaf collection issue and 'ordered' city services to "Just clean up the damn leaves". This bit of verbal aggression and profanity was his first reported statement on a city issue, and our first look at his lack of team-building skills.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for advocating on behalf of the Library.

Anonymous said...

Oh details Gina. Why would Joe remember what Council did (and what he voted for)?

fred said...

Just a small correction: LTC management did in fact take a raise, 7.2% over 2 years, if memory serves, in July. See http://www.ltconline.ca/Agendas/072810Mins.pdf waaaaaaay down at the bottom after the in camera stuff. To be fair however, council got a raise last spring too. What are the chances we'll hear that brought up in the freeps?

Gina Barber said...

Council voted to restore its pay to the 2008 levels after a year of a 5% cut. It is still at that level and the taskforce has recommended that it stay at that level for the next three years, I believe.

Sandy Levin said...

The Task Force recommended that Council salaries continue to be indexed to the lower of the Ontario CPI or the Ontario Labour Cost Index in order to de-politicize the salary issue each year. However, the Task Force also recommended that Council salaries be frozen when non union staff salaries are frozen.

HR guy said...

Fred, re LTC. You would have to see the policy statement and then compare the salaries to the job rate (the 100% pay rate on the pay grid) before concluding there was an increase of 7.2%. I would also ask for the background that determined the job rates for the positions should be raised. Salaries are important for attracting and retaining staff. If you get a reputation for cutting salaries or paying less than other similar work, when you have to hire, you don't get a lot of candidates. Unfortunately, it always looks like the other guy is overpaid while you are always underpaid.

fred said...

HR guy - Sorry, I just assumed that the minutes of the Commission meeting I referenced in my post, saying "Commission approve the changes to the Senior Management and Management Staff job rates for the period of January 1, 2011 to March 31. 2013 with such changes resulting in a 7.2% increase in job rates over the 27 month period" would have been accurate. My bad.