Mayor balks at criticism of municipal salaries

Ernie Daykin says study, by consultants Ernst and Young, faulty.

Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin is siding with the Union of B.C. Municipalities in blasting a provincial study of municipal salaries.

The report, by consultants Ernst and Young, was conducted as part of the province’s core review, launched last year, and found unionized municipal workers received pay hikes totaling 38 per cent from 2001 to 2012 – twice as much as the 19-per-cent in raises for unionized provincial government staff.

Inflation over the same period was 23 per cent.

Daykin said the study is faulty because it used numbers without checking with municipalities. The municipal salaries included wages earned by B.C. Ferries employees and TransLink.

“That’s one of the flaws in the study.”

UBCM president Rhona Martin said the authors didn’t consult cities or unions and showed a “lack of objectivity” and relied heavily on provincial data and anti-tax lobby groups like the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Maple Ridge finance general manager Paul Gill said it’s not a case of a workers receiving across- the-board wage hikes of 38 per cent.

Instead, that increase is a result of the effect of compounding pay increases, as well as the effect of new employees getting regular increases as they move through the pay grid.

A case in point is the dozens of new firefighters the city has hired.

“If somebody said our wage bill went up 38 per cent over 11 years, I would not be surprised,” Gill said. “To imply that somebody in the same job … without any changes, their numbers have gone up, I don’t think that’s a correct way of representing the issue.”

Municipalities also have to deal with high rates of growth. Maple Ridge’s population jumped from 63,000 in 2001 to 80,000 in 2013. To keep up, police and fire costs have more than tripled to more than $30 million annually.

According to a 2001 financial report, Maple Ridge’s general and administrative expenses rang in $5.4 million. Twelve years later, they were at $16.6 million.

In 2001, Maple Ridge had 233 full-time employees compared to 367 in 2013.

The district is also hauling in more cash, however.

In 2001, total general revenue was $71 million.

In 2014, the projection is for $151 million in general revenue.

Daykin also pointed out cities have keep up with pay raises awarded through arbitration and must pay for police and fire services, which increase with population growth.

Maple Ridge previously proposed that the municipal auditor general be enlisted to help cities determine policies for setting councillors’ salaries, but that was rejected by the UBCM.

Daykin welcomed provincial oversight of municipal operations.

“But we want the same lens put on their books.”

The provincial government can’t even manage its own legislative expenses, he added.

The report also notes several larger B.C. cities pay their chief administrators close to $230,000 a year, similar to the 2011 salary of an average provincial government deputy minister.

In 2013, Maple Ridge’s chief administrator Jim Rule, made just under $229,000.

The review of municipal pay levels ordered by the province recommends the government act to help rein in rapidly escalating wages among unionized civic workers and some administrators.

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