Whistler's municipal payroll rose slightly last year, from $27.8 million in 2014 to $29.4 million in 2015, according to the Resort Municipality of Whistler's (RMOW) 2015 Statement of Financial Information (SOFI) report.
Overall, 108 RMOW employees made more than $75,000 in 2015 — down from 109 the previous year — and 47 of them made more than $100,000.
2015's highest earner was CAO Mike Furey ($230,100), followed by general manager of resort experience Jan Jansen ($171,848) and general manager of corporate and community services Norm McPhail ($165,506).
Whistler's firefighters made up a big chunk of the payroll, with 22 names accounting for just over $2.8 million in salary.
The total municipal payroll, including elected officials, was $29,378,574 in 2015.
The full SOFI report will be posted to www.whistler.ca/municipal-gov/budget-taxes/financial-plans-reports.
"We have worked pretty hard to keep our operating and other expenses down in the municipality," Furey said, pointing to the three years of zero tax increases from 2012 to 2014.
"That's been a significant focus for us: to try and operate and expend as efficiently and as carefully as we can."
At the same time, Whistler has been experiencing record numbers of visitors to the resort, which puts added pressure on municipal services — something Furey said the RMOW has been able to handle without too much added expense.
"We have responded to that without having any major increases in staffing levels over the last number of years, and it has been challenging for staff to step up and respond to that, but we believe that we are still providing that quality experience to visitors and locals alike," he said.
The salaries of Whistler's firefighters — ranging anywhere from $117,000 to $140,000 — are a result of a wage settlement negotiated last year, which covers 2012 to 2019 and incudes a 2.5-per-cent increase per year over that time.
"What you're seeing in this report is pay increases — 2.5 per cent for 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 itself — so it had a bit of a cumulative impact on the numbers you see there in the SOFI report," Furey said, adding that while the increases are significant, the RMOW did manage to negotiate some offsets to operating costs.
"We're looking at how we can find further efficiencies," he said.
The RMOW also paid out $42.4 million to more than 200 suppliers in 2015 (up from $38.9 million in 2014), many of them connected to the various projects and plans in the works, like the Gateway Loop, Cultural Connector and Wayfinding projects.
"We're really starting to see those hit the ground," Furey said, noting that people will be seeing some exciting developments on the Wayfinding project very soon.
"Another big one in 2015 was the skate park... that opened to I think pretty good reviews from the ever-critical skate community. They have pretty high standards, including my 12 year old."
Looking to the future, some upcoming contract negotiations will affect next year's SOFI, Furey said.
"The wage settlement we have now with the (municipal) union and non-union staff is for 2012 to 2015," he said, adding that the RMOW is keeping an eye on what's happening with contracts in the Lower Mainland as it prepares new deals for its staff.
"We'll be looking to enter into negotiations this year, and we'll have to deal with that going forward."
As the visitors keep coming, the RMOW will have to strike a balance between providing a great experience for guests and good value for locals, Furey said.
"Not that long ago, we did a review of the organization, of the senior management, and we reduced the number of general mangers from five down to three," he said, noting that the review saved the RMOW close to $1 million annually.
"It's all about trying to find a balance between providing that staffing level to provide the services that people expect and look to the municipality for, and trying to keep taxes at a fairly reasonable level, and overall I feel that council has done a pretty good job of providing us direction on how to achieve that."
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