Annual SOFI list reveals top muni earners and suppliers 

Local firefighters account for almost one-quarter of top earners

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DAVID BUZZARD / WWW.MEDIA-CENTRE.CA - TOP EARNERS Local firefighters account for almost one-quarter of the top earners on the 2016 municipal payroll.
  • photo by david buzzard / www.media-centre.ca
  • TOP EARNERS Local firefighters account for almost one-quarter of the top earners on the 2016 municipal payroll.

Whistler held the line on a $29 million municipal payroll in 2016, according to the recently released 2016 Statement of Financial Information (SOFI) report.

That's roughly the same as the 2015 municipal payroll, with wages accounting for roughly 35 per cent of the municipality's $82 million operating budget for 2016.

The wages, however, do not include the just-negotiated 1.5 per cent raise for 2016, totalling a collective $333,842 increase in retroactive pay. That will be added to next year's SOFI along with the 2017 increases totalling $435,000.

"We just settled... fairly recently," said municipal CAO Mike Furey, of the four-year wage increase negotiations which span from 2016 to 2019 with 1.5 per cent each year for the first two years and 2 per cent each year for 2018 and 2019.

"That was reflective of a wage pattern that came out of the Lower Mainland," he added.

As to the retroactive pay for 2016, Furey said there was a surplus last year that will cover it. Meanwhile, property taxes increased 1.5 per cent in 2016 after three years of no increases.

"Obviously, our wages come from property tax so we really have kept an eye on that," said Furey.

THE SOFI LIST — $75,000 AND MORE

Each year the SOFI report, included in Tuesday's June 20 council package, contains an alphabetical list of municipal employees on salaries of $75,000 or more.

The latest report shows 104 Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) employees on that list, down from 108 in the 2015 report.

The wages also include things like employee contributions to the Canada Pension Plan, Employment Insurance, and health benefits.

Every year there are anomalies in the report; some staff members can be moved into a different pay scale, for example.

Furey pointed to his own salary — $239,545 in 2016, up from $230,100 in 2015 — the highest in the hall.

Furey explained that he hadn't been taking his full allotment of vacation, carrying it over from the previous year.

"I elected to have that paid out in 2016 and that increased my salary," he explained of the almost $10,000 jump.

THE FIRE DEPARTMENT

There were 24 firefighters on the SOFI list this year. Of those, 22 made more than $100,000.

Fire Chief Geoff Playfair earned $157,373, the fourth highest-paid member of municipal staff after Furey, Jan Jansen, general manager of resort experience and Norm McPhail, general manager of corporate and community services.

With almost one quarter of the highest paid employees at municipal hall coming from the fire department, Furey pointed to several factors at play.

All firefighters, he explained, are on a pay scale depending on length of service.

"Most of our firefighters have been around for quite a while; there's not a lot of turnover over there," he said.

As well, the firefighters get overtime for a variety of reasons. There is a requirement of a minimum of four firefighters on duty at any one time. If a firefighter is called in at short notice, they earn time and a half.

The other major factor is the strength of the firefighters' union, which, Furey said, "pursues a very aggressive approach to their collective bargaining."

"I think the firefighters here in Whistler are remunerated well for the service they provide to the community," he added.

"We are always looking to find efficiencies in the fire service and to provide an optimum fire and rescue service for the community at the most affordable rate for the taxpayers. That's a constant goal of the municipality."

THE BIG SUPPLIERS

The report shows it was a big spending year for the municipality in 2016, with $62 million in outgoing payments to suppliers over the course of the year. The 2015 SOFI report had $47 million in outgoing payments.

Furey explained that the $15 million difference from year to year is due in part to large capital projects completed or paid for in 2016.

The report includes an alphabetical list of suppliers paid more than $25,000.

For example, $4.8 million was paid out to Ponte Bros. Contracting for work on the Alpine water main replacement project.

There was a payment of $592,000 to DCPM Construction for the new Whistler Housing Authority rental building in Cheakamus. DCPM is the construction management company. That payment also includes payments to sub trades.

There was a $1.2 million payment to Metro Roofing and Sheet Metal for the Meadow Park roof.

Other factors at play driving up municipal costs include the U.S. exchange rate. For example: there is a $1.328 million payment to Regional Disposal Company, a payment to deal with Whistler's waste at the Rabanco facility in Washington. The previous report shows the payment to Regional Disposal was $1.174 million.

Another factor is simply the higher cost of doing business with the increased visitation numbers in Whistler. Evergreen Projects (a subsidiary of Carney's Waste Systems) was paid $2.445 million in 2015. That payment increased to $2.819 in 2016.

The municipal communications department cautioned, however, against taking some of the numbers at face value. The SOFI report lists amounts paid out to suppliers in a given year and is not necessarily a reflection of the total project costs, nor a reflection on whether or not grant money was used to offset costs. It simply reflects a payment made in that year.

The report also highlights the sheer volume of work and costs associated with water projects last year including:

• $4 million to Carver Construction for the Olympic Reservoir

• $326,000 to Opus Consultants for work on several water projects such as the 21 Mile Aquifer Supply Well and the RMOW Water Master Plan update

• $629,000 to CHB Services for water works such as pump station improvements.

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