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March 2nd, 2016 ~ Vol. 85 No. 9
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Dollars and sense and high payroll
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
EZRA BLACK
Pass Herald Reporter
Data obtained by the Pass Herald indicates that while the municipal tax levy is rising almost every year, an increasing percentage of the pie is going to pay for the wages, salaries and benefits of municipal workers.

In 2007, the total tax levy was about $5.5 million. Seventy-two per cent of it or about $4 million was spent on wages, salaries and benefits.

In 2012, 77 per cent of the tax levy went to salaries, benefits and wages.

In 2013, it was 84 per cent.

In 2014, it was 83 per cent.

In 2015, it was 89 per cent

This year, the total tax levy was about $7 million. Ninety-three per cent of it or about $6.5 million was spent on salaries, benefits and wages.
continued below ...
“It’s the biggest cost of the municipality,” said Councillor Dean Ward.

Ward said the amount being paid to municipal workers has hamstrung the community financially. He said the high payroll has limited the community’s ability to invest in capital projects and initiatives.

Ward did not suggest municipal employees were being paid too much but he did lament the community’s lack of a commercial or industrial tax base.

The Pass lacks significant commercial activity from which to draw revenue, he said. A balanced community’s tax levy would contain a significant percentage of commercial or industrial taxes. Ward put the figures at 70 per cent residential and 30 per cent commercial. In the Pass, 90 per cent of municipal taxes are residential and only 10 per cent are commercial, he said.
continued below ...
Ward said the municipality has about 50 fulltime and 150 part time employees. (CORRECTION: The municipality employs about 115 employees, this number includes all union, non-union, full and part-time employees.) He did not advocate layoffs but suggested the municipal workforce could be whittled down through attrition.

“We have to find ways to become more efficient [but] I’ve never been a big fan of layoffs,” he said. “I have no desire to be throwing people out on the street.”

Ward said the Pass has an “older workforce,” which could be reduced by waiting for people to retire or quit and then avoid replacing them.

“We’ve got to do that to avoid continuous tax increases just to keep up with payroll,” he said. “We’ve got to keep striving for those efficiencies or we’re going to be in trouble… people won’t be able to afford to live here.”
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March 2nd ~ Vol. 85 No. 9
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