City staff to grow by 15

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Breakdown of new staff
1 FTE for a purchasing co-ordinator for Legal Services
1 FTE for an electrical safety codes officer
0.5 FTE for a community intake specialist for The Collective
2 FTEs for two emergency services personnel
3.44 FTEs for four 911 and policing dispatch operators
1 FTE for a property assessor
1 FTE for an infrastructure asset co-ordinator
1 FTE for a transit technician
1 FTE for two technicians for Arden Theatre
1 FTE for a utilities infrastructure planning engineer

St. Albert will hire 15 new staff in 2018, pending council approval of the city budget on Dec. 18.

The 15 positions equate to 12.94 full-time-equivalent (FTE) positions, with some staff being part-time, and comprise $801,700 of the budget.

Of those, one position – a planning engineer for $92,200 – is included in the utility budget, while the rest are included in the $103-million municipal operating budget.

City staff originally asked for 13.94 FTE positions but council voted to axe a public participation program which would have required one FTE.

Not included in the number of FTEs approved, the city will also be providing $117,200 toward one additional RCMP officer in 2018.

A background report from city manager Kevin Scoble states individual departments had asked for a total of 28.69 FTEs but the city’s senior leadership team whittled that down to 13.94 by selecting projects and positions deemed to be the highest priority.

Scoble said the senior leadership team will begin looking at “alternate delivery options” – such as using contractors – for FTEs in the future, starting with the 2019 budget.

On Nov. 28, councillors failed a motion by Coun. Sheena Hughes to dial back staff increases to seven new FTEs. Hughes’ motion would have left it up to administration to decide which seven FTEs would remain in the budget.

Hughes and Coun. Ray Watkins voted in favour of that motion.

In voting against the motion, Coun. Ken MacKay said the FTEs are attached to separate initiatives – referred to as business cases – within the operating budget and should be debated separately.

“I think that in this particular case, our responsibility … is to go through the business cases, weigh them out, debate them, then determine whether or not we want to approve it and go forward or not,” he said.

Most of the initiatives requiring FTEs were not brought forward by councillors for debate.

Hughes says staff growth unsustainable

Hughes argued city staff are growing at a rate much higher than population growth.

Municipal census results show St. Albert had an average annual growth of 1.1 per cent between 2014 and 2016. But Hughes said staff have been growing by up to four times that rate.

“We have to realize the growth of staff has been excessive and it has been beyond what we can actually sustain long-term,” she said.

She pointed to a breakdown of the proposed tax increase by the city as an indicator of that: of the 2.9 per cent increase staff had originally recommended, 2.3 per cent of that came from increases to salaries, minimum wage and union increases. That equates to approximately $2.3 million.

“That to me is so shocking that it needs to have some dramatic changes done,” Hughes said.

“If we can’t actually keep this down, at some point we’re not going to be allowed to have any new FTEs.”

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