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Courtenay council approves 12 new positions

Scott Stanfield

Scott Stanfield

Record staff

In a 5-2 vote Monday, Courtenay council approved 12 new city staff positions that will be a $1 million-plus expense by next year.

The rationale for the staffing bump concerns a 43 per cent growth in Courtenay’s population from 2001-2016. Staff growth during the same period was 27 per cent.

The discrepancy impedes the aim of sustainable service delivery — identified as a council priority.

“This is no surprise to me,” said Coun. David Frisch, who feels City Hall is under-staffed. “I recognize our staff work really hard here.”

Couns. Doug Hillian, Erik Eriksson, Bob Wells and Rebecca Lennox also approved the additional positions. Mayor Larry Jangula and Coun. Manno Theos were opposed.

The 12 positions include four in the legislative/corporate services department, three each in financial services and development services, and one each in public works and recreation/cultural services. Salaries (including benefits) range from $69,000 to $110,976.

City CAO David Allen said a significant increase in development applications has added huge pressure to the development services department at City Hall. Among other things, the Courtenay Official Community Plan is at least a decade out of date.

“At the end of the day, something’s going to give,” Allen said. “This is not about empire building, this is about keeping up the level of service and the growth of the community.”

“A million dollars to a budget of a city of our size is absolutely significant,” Theos said. “When that time comes again when there’s another moment (of staff negotiation), a two per cent or three per cent hit at that time becomes more significant.”

Generally, Theos feels the public wants smaller government.

“This is, in my opinion, a move towards much bigger government. Twelve positions on top of other positions we’ve moved forward on is a massive restructuring… In terms of how these are going to extend the life of our assets, I need an explanation.”

Theos feels the 2001 numbers were an anomaly because the City had annexed the Sandwick area. Since the 2006 and 2011 censuses, he says Courtenay has grown about five per cent in five years.

“If we’re basing our numbers on an anomaly, we have to be very, very careful,” Theos said.

Jangula is also troubled by the increase.

“We’re looking at about $2.2 million a year,” he said, noting staffing costs have gone from $9.5 million in 2013 to $14.2 million in 2016.

“That’s about a 50 per cent increase. That’s just not sustainable. We can’t sell that to the public. This is a huge increase to the taxpayer.”

Hillian feels the staffing request is “reasonable,” considering taxpayers face a modest increase this year.

“I don’t see it as a situation where the sky is falling, but if that is in fact the case, then they (public) have an opportunity in approximately 18 months to do something about it,” Hillian said.

“Courtenay is definitely having some growing pains,” Lennox added. “If our staff is saying, ‘We don’t have the capacity,’ I’m going to believe the staff and believe the people who wrote this report.”