The number of City staff in the $75,000 and higher salary range reached 206 in 2012, double the 103 who were paid that much in 2007.
The number of those in the $100,000-plus bracket increased fourfold, with 64 in 2012, compared with 14 in 2007.
Pay scales are the talk of city hall these days as CUPE negotiates with management over its next contract, and the firefighters are waiting for their next deal in an arbitration hearing set for April.
Even City council will be looking at its worth, as a task force struck to review its remuneration submits its report for discussion Tuesday.
The total payroll for all City staff in 2012 cost taxpayers $52.7 million.
Two-fifths of that — $19.6 million —went to the 206 over-$75,000 employees.
The question is, how much are City staff worth and how should that be determined?
Of those 206 employees earning $75,000 or more, 93 were firefighters or in fire-related duties (there are 130 fire employees). In 2007, 47 of the 103 earning $75,000 or more were fire staff.
City administrator David Trawin said Friday he’s well aware that union contracts in past years have exceeded the cost of living or provincial government freezes.
“The pace of increases over the last 10 years can’t continue,” he said, adding the City is looking at how it can reduce some of its staff expenses.
Between 2007 and 2012, the Consumer Price Index for B.C. rose 7.2 per cent.
During that same time, City CUPE staff got 13.29 per cent more. The firefighters got 16.51 per cent from 2007 to 2010; their contracts for 2011 and 2012 have not been settled.
The problem internally is, when union staff get increases, the chain of managers also receive increases. There has been a problem with staff pay getting close to matching or exceeding that of their supervisors — in fact, with overtime, some staff earned more than their bosses, Trawin said.
His predecessor, Randy Diehl, had set up a system for top management so that they would get paid an average of peer communities.
A few years ago, City directors were far lower than their counterparts in other B.C. communities, so Diehl brought that in to level the playing field. It was done over several years so there wouldn’t be a huge leap, said Trawin.
Coun. Pat Wallace said the marketplace drove up the staff salaries, especially with upper management.
“If you can’t find people, you pay them. If you want good people, the market value is what you’re going to pay,” she said.
Pay rates vary with the job and experience, but finding good, skilled people for the higher level positions can cost, she said.
“It depends what the job is, it depends what you’re asking them to do, what kind of advice they give. It always seems if it isn’t council being berated over a bloody raise, it’s us being berated over paying the staff,” she said. “We either take too much or not enough.
“And for staff, what do they do to justify that salary? Look at the growth, the direction the City’s gone in, the amenities we’ve got — that wasn’t council, that was City staff who did their homework and advised us how to, and got the best price.”
Wallace noted the cost of everything has gone up over time — gas, housing, even food. The cost of running a city is going up, too.
“People don’t work for nothing. You have to compensate people for their value. If you don’t, you keep changing your staff.”
Brad Harrison, president of the Kamloops Voters Society, said there should be a transparent process on how those salaries are set, particularly with upper management.
“If they’re arguing they have to get paid, show us how they arrived at that. Have the public involved in that process. How do they come to that conclusion we need to compete? Where’s the background on that?” he said.
“We’d like to see some rationalization — it is the public’s money. The public are the stakeholders. It’s our money.”
The B.C. director for the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation said municipalities always argue they have to pay more to get better managers.
“It’s just constant creep upward,” he said.
The provincial government insisted on zero-per-cent increases for public-sector employees for a few years when times were tough — municipalities should follow suit.
“We’ve been pushing municipalities to explain why they don’t do the same,” he said. “Even two or three per cent is a huge cost to taxpayers. And it is higher than the rate of inflation. It’s under one per cent in B.C. right now.”
The City of Penticton froze its executive raises for three years and actually reduced starting wages for new staff, he said. Their number of staff earning $75,000 or more fell from 75 to 59.
“They said, ‘Hey, Penticton’s a pretty nice place to live. Who wouldn’t want to live here?’ ” said Bateman.
And Penticton’s potholes are still being filled, the fires are still being put out, he said.
“You have this never-ending cycle creeping upward. . . . You’ve got to look at the taxpayers’ ability to pay.”