Municipal staff payouts dropped by 5.61 per cent in 2011 

RMOW releases its statements of financial information for first post-Olympic year

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Payout levels for municipal staff in Whistler fell by $1,273,822.32 or 5.6 per cent in 2011 compared with 2010, according to the statements of financial information (SOFI) released by the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) on June 21.

The total amount of remuneration — including Employment Insurance, Canada Pensions Plan, health benefits and taxes, and taxable benefits — was $21,418,584.71 in 2011, and $22,692,407.03 in 2010, allowing for the anomaly of extra costs, including overtime, in an Olympic year.  

The figure excludes expenses for costs such as mileage, profession accreditation fees, and event registration fees, which came to $335,260.32 for the year.

Comparing to the last non-Olympic year, the 2011 payroll is 5.3 per cent higher than remuneration levels for municipal staff in 2009, which was $20,278,306.25.

Councillors and mayoral remuneration for 2011, an election year, came to $190,257.34, excluding expenses of $18,317.03. In 2010, mayor and councillors remuneration came to $184,964.00, with expenses of 17,146.24.

In the section showing payments for goods and services, a few items stand out.

Mobilize Strategies Incorporated received $440,459 and Watermark Communications Incorporated another $592,867 for their work on Whistler Presents programming.

Young Anderson Barristers and Solicitors of Vancouver, legal representatives for the Rainbow expropriation lawsuit as well as other RMOW legal issues, received $72,873 from the RMOW in 2011.

In May 2012 the RMOW was ordered to pay $1.507 million in interest to the Saxton family for the 1987 expropriation of 44 hectares of land that is now Rainbow Park. The family is appealing that amount.

Last year, when the RMOW's lawyer neglected to file an appeal on the original judgement, council discussed ending its relationship with the law firm. But in an email in January of 2012 to Pique, the RMOW said its legal advice was to continue with the same firm with a different lawyer.

 A spokesperson for the RMOW said that the firm's services in 2011 were used "for a variety of purposes including: (the) official community plan, financial audit queries, zoning and development permit questions, in addition to work on the Rainbow case."

Peak Ventures received $2,275,739 for its work as the general construction contractor for Whistler Olympic Plaza.

Neilson-Welch Consulting received $131,893 in 2011 for the RMOW's organizational service review, as well a preliminary study of what boundary extension would mean for Whistler, with an emphasis on financial implications.

As well, the municipality paid $4,365,289 to BC Hydro in 2011, the biggest line item in the SOFI report.

Total grants in aid for 2011 came to $997,732. This included $536,800 for the Whistler Arts Council, $150,000 for the Whistler Museum, and $110,000 for the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, $60,000 for WAG and $25,000 for WORCA. Total grants under $25,000 came to $115,932.

In an interview, Wilhelm-Morden agreed it made "interesting reading," but said the report covers "cash paid out, so it doesn't necessarily show the other side of the ledger."

"We are working on our financial reporting systems. It's one of the things we're doing as part of the council action plan, making our budget document and financial statements more compatible read together, and also our quarterly financial reporting that we're trying to launch."

These council initiatives were independent of the SOFI, which is required by legislation, and doesn't, she said, show the whole picture. "But it is what it is, and I always had fun reading it when I wasn't the mayor, because it's interesting."

Wilhelm-Morden said in terms of what residents could take away from the 2011 SOFI, one item stuck out.

"The total amount paid to our staff decreased in 2011, compared to 2010, down $1.2 million. The number of employees making $75,000 or more has remained the same... that's a bit of a story... Some people have left and not been replaced," she said.

In terms of salary increases, she added, unionized and non-unionized employees rose by four per cent.

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