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LETTER: Special Council Meeting: Money for nothing and the ‘cheques’ for free

On February 1, 2012, Council held a special meeting to consider service level cuts.  While one might expect a high degree of interest by ratepayers, only four members of the public attended the meeting.

Council had earlier completed a questionnaire to rate about 60 County government services for (a) importance and  (b) satisfaction.  The idea was to consider cutting back on services rated of low importance by a majority of Councillors.  Problem is: none were.  But eight Councillors rated three services of low importance: Sidewalk plowing, Marinas and Police Services Board, so they may get some attention.

Regarding satisfaction, Councillors seem to be pretty happy.  Three services received ratings of low satisfaction from six Councillors: Pavement / surface conditions, Investment attraction  and Economic development strategic plan.

One Councillor commented that he wasn’t surprised at the results —  that what was being demonstrated was that the services currently being provided are the ones that should be provided.

It was generally agreed that the exercise was worthwhile, even if nothing definitive came out of the discussion.

There was also a discussion of salaries:

  • CAO Merlin Dewing pushed hard for Council to accept a 2.8% cost-of-living increase for non union staff, which was approved by Council.
  • The CAO also referenced a need for additional market adjustments  to keep up with salaries in other municipalities, indicating that PEC has fallen to the 32nd percentile from its target of the 50th percentile.  Any such adjustments would be retroactive to 2009 and would result in an additional and substantial one-time cost in the 2012 budget.
  • There was mention of a loss of a significant number of staff at the manager level, but there was no consensus as to whether this was due to salaries.
  • Councillor Forrester questioned whether Council should be granting even a cost-of-living increase when people in the private sector had their salaries frozen for three years or more.
  • Councillor MacDonald questioned the optics of Council’s acceptance of a cost-of-living increase at a time when fiscal restraint is necessary.
  • It was mentioned that union salaries have been agreed until 2013.

During the meeting , there was mention several times that the County is in “dire straits” financially.  This may come as a surprise to ratepayers, who have not been informed of any serious problems since the new Council took office.  It also seemed to surprise some Councillors, one of whom asked for more information, which was promised “soon”.

Bottom line: no agreement to cut services; no agreement to hold the line on salaries; looming “dire straits” financial situation.  One comes up with a variation of the Dire Straits song lyric: “Money for nothing, and cheques for free”.

 Gary Mooney

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  1. Lori Smith says:

    “Union salaries are agreed on until 2013.”

    Does that include a cost of living raise of 2.8% for the current year, like the one the councillors voted to give themselves? Now they tell us we are in financial “dire straits” and cannot afford to give non-union staff a similar increase in wages. I think they should rescind their own raise. For most councillors, their salaries are not their only source of income. Both union and non union staff, for most of them, it is the only income they earn.

  2. Doris Lane says:

    Everyone knew at the time of the last election that the county was in financial trouble, what is this about payout for back salaries, We hardly have money to pay the present salaries.
    We have a lot of debt re water and sewer etc. We need to hold the line and stop the spending

  3. Mark says:

    This from a council that refuted their newly hired CAO’s recommendation to openly consult with the public. Hire someone but don’t let them do the job! Things have been very wrong at Shire Hall for sometime and it isn’t improving. It will be a financial nightmare if some common sense doesn’t prevail soon.

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