Bud­get crunch: Hamil­ton to cut 23 jobs ci­ty­wide

More po­si­tions still could be axed as coun­cil seeks to keep tax hike in line; non-union staff af­fected so far

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - MATTHEW VAN DONGEN

The city has taken the rare step of cut­ting 23 man­age­ment and other nonunion jobs — so far — in a bid to tame a threat­ened tax hike.

Coun­cil­lors and top bu­reau­crats didn’t rule out a sec­ond round of job or ser­vice cuts be­fore this year’s bud­get is approved, ei­ther. But those dis­cus­sions re­main be­hind closed doors for now — even as the city for­mally in­vites mem­bers of the pub­lic to address coun­cil about the bud­get Thurs­day at 3 p.m. at City Hall.

City man­ager Chris Mur­ray said Wed­nes­day night 11 di­rec­tors, five man­agers and seven ad­min­is­tra­tive staffers have ei­ther been ter­mi­nated or agreed to early re­tire­ments. A hand­ful of axed po­si­tions were al­ready va­cant and five ad­di­tional man­age­rial jobs have been down­graded to less se­nior su­per­vi­sory roles.

The changes are ex­pected to save $3.3-mil­lion a year — the equiv­a­lent of $14 sav­ings on this year’s av­er­age tax bill. But first, the city has to swal­low about $1.4 mil­lion in ex­pected sev­er­ance and re­lated costs.

Mur­ray called the rare spate of cuts “a dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion, but nec­es­sary” in light of coun­cil’s re­quest to slice $20 mil­lion out of a 2017 op­er­at­ing bud­get that oth­er­wise threat­ens to hike the av­er­age tax bill by four or five per cent.

The city man­ager said the job cuts should not have an “ap­pre­cia­ble neg­a­tive im­pact” on city res­i­dents but added ex­ist­ing man­agers will shoul­der ex­tra du­ties.

“It’s a ma­jor re­duc­tion in se­nior lead­er­ship, no doubt about it,” he said. “I don’t want any­one think­ing this is a walk in the park. It’s not.”

Mur­ray also warned there is “more work to be done” on re­struc­tur­ing, in par­tic­u­lar with an up­com­ing look at whether to com­bine emer­gency ser­vices and pub­lic health de­part­ments.

Coun­cil has been dis­cussing pos­si­ble job-cut sce­nar­ios be­hind closed doors for sev­eral weeks. The Spec­ta­tor learned some of those dis­cus­sions have re­volved around a se­cret con­sult­ing re­port that rec­om­mended up to 45 On­tario Works staff cuts last year.

Coun. Terry White­head said politi­cians are mind­ful of the “hu­man cost” of any staff cuts but added coun­cil mem­bers have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­tect tax­pay­ers. “I think this is round one,” he said, point­ing to the on­go­ing de­bate over the On­tario Works re­port.

Coun. Chad Collins, who put for­ward a mo­tion last year to look at the labour force and po­ten­tial hir­ing freezes, said it’s also pos­si­ble coun­cil will look at lim­ited ser­vice cuts.

Some coun­cil­lors say they ex­pected se­nior staff to float pos­si­ble ser­vice cuts like clos­ing one of the two un­der­per­form­ing Che­doke golf cour­ses, or end­ing oper­a­tion of some money-los­ing arena con­ces­sion stands. But so far, city bud­get staff has not con­firmed th­ese top­ics will be for­mally pre­sented to coun­cil.

The last time the city cut more than 20 jobs at one time was in 2013, when oper­a­tion of the city’s ma­jor en­ter­tain­ment fa­cil­i­ties (for­merly known as HECFI) were pri­va­tized. By the end of that process, more than 25 po­si­tions were phased out.

Hamil­ton is also fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of other cash-strapped ci­ties by cut­ting staff.

Bramp­ton un­loaded more than 25 man­agers last year while Ot­tawa cut more than 180 man­agers and union­ized work­ers in 2016.

Hamil­ton res­i­dents were taxed for $828 mil­lion last year, with a 1.8per cent av­er­age tax hike that added $67 to the so-called av­er­age owner of a home worth $295,300.

Over five years, the suc­ces­sive sub-two per cent in­creases have still added $317 to that av­er­age tax bill, plus an­other $124 for ex­tra wa­ter rates. Those hikes are among the low­est in On­tario ci­ties.

I don’t want any­one think­ing this is a walk in the park. It’s not. CITY MAN­AGER CHRIS MUR­RAY

Chris Mur­ray: Moves are “ma­jor re­duc­tion”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.