June 05, 2013 - 3:57 PM
NORTH OKANAGAN — According to financial reporting, 43 per cent of the $5.7 million payroll at the Regional District of North Okanagan (RDNO) went to just 24 top managers and staff last year.
Payroll was also up almost eight per cent last year, due in part to an accounting anomaly and a concerted effort by the regional district to save money by doing work in house.
According to a statement of financial information released this week detailing the names, positions, and wages of employees earning over $75,000, 24 people took home a total of $2,463,559, or 43 per cent of the total payroll.
Chief financial officer David Sewell says the distribution of cash is "not out of line." While he admits he hasn't done a full head count of staff, he estimates the district has 55-65 full time equivalents (including the 24 top earners), as well as a long list of other part-timers, including paid on-call firefighters, landfill workers and recreation centre staff.
"It's not like these people are the one per cent," Sewell says. "Twenty-four is a reasonable chunk of our staff."
He says around 2.5 per cent of the overall eight per cent increase was due to adjustments made to pay periods in 2011. Half a pay period was missing from the 2011 financial report, driving the total expenditures down somewhat.
"It created an artificial jump for 2012," Sewell says.
Instead of contracting work out to other companies, the district took on more staff in its recycling and disposal facilities. "Sometimes, when you factor everything in, if you can do it internally, it's cheaper," Sewell says.
Of the 24 employees earning over $75,000, just one quarter—six—are women. Sewell says the report under represents the number of women truly employed. An employee has to work the full year to be included on the list, and Sewell notes several women took time off to be on maternity leave last year.
As for women earning less than $75,000, Sewell suspects the gender split is closer to 50/50. With the slow turnover of staff, he says it takes time for individuals, including women, to move into the senior level, higher income roles.
"The shift isn't going to happen overnight," he says. "Frankly, we hire the best candidate."
Remuneration and expenses for district directors and committee members also rose, from $273,479 in 2011 to $313,622 in 2012. According to financial statements for the district's directors and committee members, board vice-chair Patrick Fairbairn took in the highest total, with $34,431. Compared to director Rob Sawatzky, for example, who was paid $15,565. Sawatzky doubles as Vernon mayor, and gets remuneration and expenses from the city on top of what the regional district pays.
"If you added them together, his total would be much higher," Sewell says.
Attending meetings like the Union of B.C. Municipalities, and getting their mileage, airfare and accommodation paid for racks up most of a local politician's expenses, Sewell says.
"The challenge is they never have these meetings in Vernon, they're always on the Lower Mainland or the Island," Sewell says.
RDNO board chair Patrick Nicol says directors have done a lot with very little, and believes any increase in expenses is testament to how hard they worked. "It's a product of them being very active and connecting with partners at the provincial level," Nicol says. "
If directors claimed absolutely every hour they worked, or every kilometre they travelled, Nicol suspects the district's expenditures would be much higher than they are. "A lot of us don't claim it all, we choose to set a certain tone," he says.
Sewell says the district has been conservative with its money this year, keeping anything not absolutely essential to a minimum.
"We've tried to make sure our remunerations and expenses are reasonable in regards to our size," Sewell says. "We've done no international conferences, and we've had to say no to a lot of things with the reality of the economy."
You can find more information on staff and politician wages in the Board of Director's meeting agenda for June 5.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (250)309-5230.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013