Penticton mayor responds to being named to Canadian Taxpayer's Federation "naughty" list - InfoNews

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Penticton mayor responds to being named to Canadian Taxpayer's Federation "naughty" list

Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit defended the city's hiring of seven personnel following condemnation by a taxpayers' advocacy group yesterday, Dec. 20, 2016.
December 22, 2016 - 10:30 AM

PENTICTON - Penticton mayor and councillors found themselves in the crosshairs of a national taxpayer group this week but Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit says they are only reporting half the story.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation issued its annual year end 'naughty and nice' list in a press release yesterday, Dec. 20, and condemned the Penticton Mayor and Council to its 'naughty list' for becoming embroiled in the waterslide controversy at Skaha Lake Park.

Federation director Jordan Bateman also chided the Penticton officials for adding 10 city managers to staff following a core review in 2009, noting the city’s population grew by only 411 people during that time.

Jakubeit said today, Dec. 21, Bateman doesn’t have an accurate grasp of the facts.

“In 2009, we did a core service review and cut 31 jobs. We did hire 10 jobs back, but three of them were formerly union jobs, and are now union exempt, so they weren’t new hires,” he says, adding the land administrator, payroll and human resources clerk were all previous positions.

Jakubeit also said the communications officer position, which drew special mention from Bateman, had been in place for the past four or five years. JoAnn Kleb’s Community Engagement Consultant position is a 16-month contract position.

"Three of the 10 positions already existed, so we’ve added seven.... I think from Mr. Bateman’s perspective, he’s being critical of city costs incurred in the waterslide issue as they relate to staff and legal costs to deal with it,” Jakubeit said.

Jakubeit says the city reacts to the ebb and flow of the marketplace much like business does, noting the core services review took place at the end of a recessionary period.

“Since that time, we have been getting busier, with $60 million in construction in the city last year and $195 million to date this year. Obviously, that’s a significant increase that requires staffing, not just people pushing paper or evaluating plans, but people going on site and people seeing how the development is going to affect our future growth and infrastructure,” he said, adding the city can’t hold back development because it doesn't have the staff to clear a backlog of files.

He said all the new hires came with a business case attached to them, whether that was through revenue generating permit fees or bylaw fines.

“We’ve always focussed on where do we cut, cut, cut, instead of how do we grow and where do we grow, and sometimes you have to invest in staff to make that happen,” he said.

The only comparison Bateman used was population growth of little more than 400 people to suggest the city hired too many people.

“I would argue that number is going to change in the next year or two, after two solid years in the real estate market and a surging business community,” he said.

Jakubeit said Kleb’s position is intended to find a way to engage all citizens of the city in a way that taps into the broader range of people, engaging those who aren’t currently speaking out.

“If you have a loud voice, lobby effectively, you can control what happens in the city, and that might be contradictory to the vast majority. Decisions here affect the daily life or residents - you would think there would be more citizens interested in expressing their opinion, but quite often it’s just the vocal minority with a loud voice speaking, while the silent majority say nothing. How can we tap into those people?” he said.

Jakubeit also noted the irony of making the naughty list.

“I’m sure three years ago we’d have been on the 'nice' list because the city wasn't raising property taxes, but fast forward those three years and we’re now finding those years of zero tax increases have caught up,” he said, referring to a recent infrastructure deficit study that pointed out those years of zero increases had fuelled the city’s infrastructure budget shortages.

“Now we have to pay the piper, and it’s going to cost us more money to catch up,” he said.

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