City takes lax approach to staff spending
The 2018 Statements of Financial Information released by the City of Prince George last week didn’t just reveal an 8.2 per cent increase in base pay in one year for the city manager. The statement of remuneration (fancy government word for income) and expenses paid makes it clear that the City of Prince George is making no effort whatsoever to control employee spending, starting with the city manager and senior bureaucrats.
In the real world (that is, the private sector and most of the public sector), management and union-exempt staff operate under a “use it or lose it” policy when it comes to vacation time.
If such an employee has 25 days (five weeks) of holiday time but only uses 10 days (two weeks), that employee doesn’t get to roll that holiday time forward into the next year and certainly doesn’t get paid out for holiday time not taken.
Still in the real world, management overseeing unionized employees is encouraged to stay on top of overtime while also making sure those workers take their full allotment of holiday time.
Besides the obvious benefits to health, morale and productivity when staff use the vacation time they’ve earned, the employer isn’t stuck with the unexpected expense of vacation time payouts at the end of the year.
As has been clearly established in this space over the past year, however, when reporting both the 2017 and 2018 SOFIs, the real world does not intrude upon the cozy confines of the fifth floor at Prince George
City Hall, particularly when it comes to annual pay increases for senior managers (significantly higher than the unionized staff they oversee) and overtime pay (double time, compared to time-and-a-half for unionized city workers).
Never mind that the vast majority of managers and union-exempt supervisors employed in the real world don’t receive overtime (manage your time, they’re told), don’t receive vacation payouts for unused holiday days (manage your vacation time, they’re told) and face a reprimand or worse if their staff are continuously running up overtime and unused vacation time (manage your department and your employees, they’re told).
The City of Prince George paid out just over $3 million in overtime to its employees in 2018, along with nearly $900,000 in vacation payouts.
Most of that overtime was clearly warranted when linking the payments to the job position. Much of it went to firefighters. Other overtime can be clearly tied to accommodating the 2018 wildfire evacuees and/ or fighting the sinkhole that wouldn’t die at Winnipeg and Carney.
The vacation payouts, however, show a disregard for basic management of staff hours and time, along with the corresponding costs.
Issues come up from time to time, of course, that may require a handful of employees to receive compensation for unused vacation at the end of the year but that’s not the case at the City of Prince George, where a majority of the employees received a vacation payout at the end of 2018.
So it should come as no surprise that all of the city’s senior management team received a vacation payout in 2018 and six of them also received overtime income.
• City manager: $256,930.39 base pay, $0 overtime, $6,276.72 vacation payout.
• General manager, administrative services: $197,997.44 base pay, $883.63 overtime, $27,343.63 vacation payout.
• General manager, planning and development: $195,333.62 base pay, $1,521.79 overtime, $15,041.24 vacation payout.
• General manager, community services: $193,671.04 base pay, $2,159.96 overtime, $4,848.30 vacation payout.
• General manager, Engineering and Public Works: $198,433.77 base pay, $0 overtime, $1,835.43 vacation payout.
• Director of finance: $179,020.68 base pay, $0 overtime, $2,442.89 vacation payout.
• Director of human resources: $179,470.66 base pay, $4,818.23 overtime, $4,562.17 vacation payout.
• Director of public works: $184,532.48 base pay, $5,181.87 overtime, $2,167.38 vacation payout.
• Director of external relations: $179,470.65 base pay, $1,727.29 overtime, $1,665.15 vacation payout.
• Director of engineering: $169,190.66 base pay, $0 overtime, $2,626.10 vacation payout.
The overtime income doesn’t come close to matching the 2017 numbers for these positions but that’s because the number of wildfire evacuees in Prince George didn’t come close to matching the number of folks who fled to Prince George in 2017.
Two numbers, however, jump out – the vacation payouts of $27,343.63 and $15,041.24 awarded to the general manager of administrative services and general manager of planning and development.
Seen one way, those payouts reflect hardworking managers who would rather work than take their allotted 30 days (six weeks) of holiday time.
Seen another way, those payouts reveal managers unable to organize their departments to operate without them for a week or two at a time. And seen from a dollars and cents perspective, these two managers handed their employer an unanticipated bill for a combined $42,000.
In the real world, their boss would have probably laughed at both of them and said it looks to me like you two gentlemen have 27,000 and 15,000 reasons, respectively, to better manage your time and your departments next year so you can properly use your allotted vacation time.
Of course, it never should have got that far. Their boss, the city manager, should have kept better track of the unused vacation time of her two hardworking lieutenants, thanked them for their commitment, scolded them for their poor time management and kicked them out of their offices for the month of December if necessary.
Instead, it’s just another bill passed down the line, with what appears to be little consideration for the people ultimately on the hook for the bill.
Something to think about for everyone set to pay their city taxes next week.
— Neil Godbout, editor in chief