Letter: Reader concerned with salaries and reserves

Dear editor:

While I will try to be at the [budget open house] meeting Wednesday night, I wanted to be sure to pass along a few concerns that I have that may require some research just in case I can’t make the meeting:

1: Has anyone taken a long, hard look at the way we are trending with fulltime Town employees? Using the figures provided back to 2009,I did some quick math and was very dismayed with what I saw. I have created a quick table to illustrate my point:

Morinville Salary Figures

2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
$3,697,946 $3,802,461 $4,720,540 $5,210,115 $5,314,317 $5,420,604
% increase from 2009 3% 28% 41% 44% 47%

Thus,our Town has increased salaries from $3.697 million in 2009 to $5.21 million in 2012. Roughly, that is a 41 per cent increase over 2009. Grow like that without commensurate increases in revenue, which the Town’s figures do not seem to portray, and it is clearly unsustainable. In fact, I would like to hear from the planner that advocated such increases as to how they justified them and where they see the long-term revenue coming from. I see that the planners have projected a 3 per cent increase per year. However, I also wonder if that is a cost of living increase or part of a collective bargaining arrangement. When you factor in the cost of the Town’s pension and benefits package, the costs continue to escalate.

I know that several positions or so were a result of the Morinville Community Cultural Centre, but while I agree that the Town must have the resources and staff in place to grow, I would argue that such growth should take place at a much slower and sustainable rate.

From my calculations, the Town’s revenue from 2009 to 2012 has increased approximately 21 per cent, but our salaries have gone up by 41 per cent. As well, if the notes are correct, the Town has only filled 51 positions as of 2010. Will all 60 positions be filled by end of 2011? Are those full salary costs included in the projections for 2012? If not, they need to be.

2: The Town is using $1,037,413 of its operating reserves to reduce the overall projected deficit in 2012 to just $50,732. I would ask what are the Town’s total reserves and are they projected to increase between now and 2014? The reason I ask this question is that the use of reserves will only stave off another tax increase of large proportions.

Once a reserve is depleted, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to reconstitute. I would argue that if we are continually increasing our reserves, we need to try and be more accurate with the estimates so that taxes don’t have to go up every year. I know it is easier to have small increases every year rather than a big one every two or three years, but it doesn’t make increases any easier to accept.

The reason for my concern is that my tax assessment increased from $2,200 in 2010 to $2,700 in 2011. While some of this increase can be explained by the increase in property values from when I bought and improved the house, it does not justify a 32 per cent increase in taxes.

Brent Henry,
Morinville

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2 Comments

  1. An excellent letter Brent!

    It makes me feel good to know that I am not the only one complaining. I am extremely concerned how “excess” funds are moved from operating to capital and from tax supported budget to the Utility supported budget freely with little or no consultation from the public.

    I would suggest that if possible you should attend the November 22nd council meeting. I understand that Mr. P. ODhea will be giving a 5 minute presentation on the manpower/salary issue and I am also on the agenda for 5 minutes to give a presentation of my concerns. If you are going to the open house tonight, ask either the Mayor or one of the Councillors if it is too late to add your name & presentation to the Nov. 22nd Council meeting which, by the way, will be the 2nd reading of the budget.

    Please feel free to call me at 780-939-6885

    Linda Lyons

  2. I couldn’t have said it better myself Brent, these are the exact two issues I feel are most concerning in the current budget.

    I’m curious as to why the town is using $1,037,413 to ‘balance’ the budget, but still leaving at shortfall of $50k. This seems quite arbitrary, and I wonder if it’s because there is only $1,037,413 left in the reserve?

    They actually tried this exact same thing last year, and when town administration was asked how much was in reserve… nobody had any idea. I would have to hope that someone has checked that amount for this year, but it’s concerning that it’s not being published.

    I’m looking forward to the open house tonight, as well as the salary presentation on the 22nd. I am also immensely curious about how the incredible salary increase was justified, and where the revenues to offset are coming from.

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