Mayor anticipates a “minor” increase in city staff

Tyler
Tyler Clarke
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A community services department civic worker cuts trees at Little Red River Park in preparation for the weekend influx of visitors. 

An increase to service levels will join natural gas rates, electricity rates and union contract negotiations in driving up taxes this year, Mayor Greg Dionne said.

 

Although city council has yet to make any budgetary decisions, Dionne said that he anticipates the city requiring an increase in staff this year.

“I think we have to add a few more people to the IT department, strictly because we want to upgrade our technology, and we want to bring in programs so people can pay online and stuff like that,” he explained.

“All the staff leveling that we’re going to add, I think are going to be minor.”

The mayor said that he’d be reluctant to increase staffing levels in other areas, and to instead draw from private contractors.

“For example, the snow removal -- we contract out two extra graders now and a whole bunch of private dump trucks so we don’t have to pay for that,” he said.

“We call them in once our staff is all staffed up, so our staff isn’t losing any hours we call in the private contractors.”

Although private are for-profit by nature, Dionne said that the cost ends up comparable to using city staff “as long as you control it.”

Looking toward his first budget process as city manager of Prince Albert, Jim Toye said that any staffing increase will ultimately be a decision of all nine members of council.

 “If I went to every foreman or manager and asked them, every one of them would say they needed staff – absolutely,” he said.

“We’re a big city and we have certain situations that arise where we can use additional staff, and there’s high expectation of what we’re able to provide.

“We want to do it in a very efficient and effective way and use resources that we have.”

It’ll be up to council to determine “the level of service through the budget process.”

With increased service comes an increase in staffing, such as last year’s budgetary decision to increase the city’s urban forestry staff -- a decision that came at a cost of $189,900.

I think we have to add a few more people to the IT department, strictly because we want to upgrade our technology, and we want to bring in programs so people can pay online and stuff like that Greg Dionne

Although such service level increases or potential decreases are for the city’s elected officials to make, Toye is currently tasked with examining two administrative positions, including that of community services director and corporate services.

Last year saw corporate services director Chris Cvik and community services director Greg Zeeben leave. Cvik’s departure was by choice and Zeeben’s was technically a decisions of Cvik’s, made during his run as interim city manager, although Dionne has stated that he played a role in Zeeben’s release.

“Those are a priority for me to review the work chart to make the determination if those two are still required as far as the positions themselves, and if they are required, if they require any tweaking regarding skillset or education or experience that we’re looking for,” Toye said.

“I anticipate that there’ll be a decision on those prior to budget discussions.”

Leading up to Christmas break, the city’s elected officials met in private with city administration on several occasions to review the city’s base, or status quo, budget.

Some time this week, Toye anticipates announcing dates for the city’s formal budget meetings, during which decisions will be made in a public forum at city hall.

Dionne expects to see the city’s 2014 budget finalized some time in March.

Last year’s budget season saw the city’s elected officials ask about $4 million more of city coffers over the previous year, of which half went to doubling the city’s annual asphalt paving program.

City council tentatively agreed to increase utility rates by 9.2 per cent this year -- a decision anticipated to be made formal during this year’s budget discussions. 

Organizations: Prince Albert

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