The bosses at the City of Prince George sure know how to show the unionized employees who's in charge.
While CUPE staffers were cheerfully getting two per cent increases in 2015, 2016 and 2017, the folks in charge at city hall were getting much larger pay raises.
The term they use is remuneration, further proof of the wisdom of George Orwell, who warned 70 years ago about the dangers of bureaucracies, including their insistence on assaulting the English language with fancy language to replace simple words. So they'd rather use remuneration, a fancy five-syllable bureaucratic word preferred by accountants and lawyers, the agents of bureaucracy, to complicate a single-syllable, three-letter word used by the common folk: pay. On the flip side, remuneration is the perfect word used to describe what's going on at the City of Prince George. According to Merriam-Webster, it comes from the Latin word munus meaning "gift," and shares its origin with munificent, which means "very liberal in giving."
That's a polite, precise phrase to describe what's being going on at the upper management level at the City of Prince George, based on an analysis of the last four years of Statements of Financial Information (SOFI) reports.
Starting at the top with city manager Kathleen Soltis. She was paid $223,415.51 in 2015, her first year as city manager, a slight increase over the $220,627.82 Beth James was paid to do that job (as Soltis's boss) in 2014. Last year, Soltis was paid $284,480.31, a $61,000 increase (27.3 per cent) from two years earlier.
The same happened among the senior bureaucrats that report directly to Soltis.
Rob Whitwham, the community services general manager, made $212,661.66 in 2017, a $46,800 increase (28.2 per cent) from 2014.
Ian Wells, the planning and development general manager, made $210,299.66 in 2017, a $57,300 increase (37.5 per cent) from 2014.
Walter Babicz, the administrative services general manager, made $207,620.39 in 2017, a $54,000 increase (35.2 per cent) from 2014.
Rae-Ann Emery's situation as human resources director requires an explanation. Before Soltis became city manager, Emery wasn't a director but a manager and reported to Soltis, who led the corporate services department that included HR and finance. In 2014, Emery made $122.388.04 and then got a $38,000 pay hike (31.4 per cent) in 2015 when she became a director. Her pay hikes didn't stop there, however. In 2017, she made $198,453.95, another $38,000 (23.8 per cent) more than what she made just two years earlier.
A similar situation exists for Dave Dyer, the engineering and public works general manager. He took over his current role from Frank Blues in 2014. In 2015, Dyer made $153,741.23 in his first full year in his current job. Last year, he made $208,218.80. That's a $54,500 increase (35.4 per cent) from just two years earlier.
Dyer's colleague Gina Layte Liston, the engineering and public works director, made $203,007.14 in 2017, a $53,600 increase (35.9 per cent) from just two years earlier.
When Soltis moved up to city manager, Kris Dallio took over as finance director but minus the HR department under Emery. In 2015, his first year in his current role, Dallio made $149,984.95. Last year, he made $183,961.96. That's a $34,000 increase (22.7 per cent) from just two years earlier.
Finally, Rob van Adrichem came down from UNBC in the fall of 2015 to take the second new director-level position Soltis created. In 2016, his first full year as external relations director, van Adrichem made $177,124.17. Last year, he made $199,911.34. That's a $22,800 increase (12.9 per cent) in just one year.
And the money kept flowing.
Mike Kellett, the senior communications officer who reports to van Adrichem, also came on board in 2015. In 2016, his first full year, Kellett made $91,081.16. Last year, he made $104,176.06. That's a $13,100 increase (14.4 per cent) in just one year.
Kellett's 2017 income offers a good point of comparison because there are currently four communications officer positions open in the public sector in Prince George.
The Fraser-Fort George Regional District is seeking a cultural and communication coordinator. It pays $59,000 per year.
UNBC is seeking a communications officer. It pays $56,586.89 to $58,935.35 per year.
CNC is seeking a marketing and communications officer. It pays $52,051 per year.
The Prince George office of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations is seeking a communications officer. The wage will be determined based upon experience.
Back to remuneration for a minute. In an email, Kellett defined remuneration as "any form of salary, wages, and taxable benefits." Taxable benefits is a nice way of saying "stuff you would have to pay yourself if your employer didn't pay it for you." So that means medical, dental and eyeglasses coverage and allowances for a phone, a car, gas or other equipment.
Unless each of the above positions received a huge increase in taxable benefits, those individuals received those pay hikes in the form of wages.
Which leads to the Cariboo wildfires.
"With regard to the 2017 SOFI report," Kellett wrote in his email, "please note that comparisons to previous years may be more difficult due to an additional $4.4 million of salaries and expenses incurred by the city in response to the wildfires."
There's a non-answer that begs five more questions.
Aren't the city manager, the directors and the general managers all on salary, not an hourly wage?
If so, why would they get paid more to handle a crisis? (That's in contrast to firefighters, who are hourly paid employees that get overtime to tackle big fires).
Why hasn't the city released a breakdown of the $4.4 million in wages and expenses it took on from the Cariboo wildfires, which it will get back from the provincial government by the way? (A reminder to folks that while volunteers did great work last summer, paid individuals, many of them city employees, did the bulk of the heavy lifting).
Why didn't the city's 2017 SOFI statement break down what City of Prince George employees who made more than $75,000 last year also earned - over and above their regular pay - helping the evacuees of the Cariboo wildfires?
If the city manager and her management team all took extra wages because of the wildfires, does that mean their 2018 earnings will be less than 2017?
Taking away the wildfires, upper management wages at the City of Prince George have still gone up substantially more than what they have for unionized staff. Why is that?
The problem with city wages extends well beyond last year's wildfires or the city manager or the director or the senior communications officer.
In 2017, the City of Prince George had 1,071 employees, compared to 916 in 2014, an increase of 155 positions (16.9 per cent). In 2017, the city's payroll was $60.5 million, compared to $48.4 million in 2014, a $12.1 million increase (25 per cent). In 2017, 323 city employees made more than $75,000, compared to 244 in 2014. That's an increase of 79 workers (32.4 per cent) over a three-year period.
So it's safe to say there's been some munificent remuneration increases at the City of Prince George in the past several years.
But are they as out of step with the pay for similar jobs at the provincial government and compared to other similar-sized municipalities like Vernon, Kamloops and Nanaimo?
Depends on the position but the short answer is yes.
More on that tomorrow.
City of P.G. payroll, top earners
Number of City of Prince George employees in 2017 - 1,071
Number of City of Prince George employees in 2016 - 955
Number of City of Prince George employees in 2015 - 921
Number of City of Prince George employees in 2014 - 916
2017 City of Prince George payroll - $60.5 million
2016 City of Prince George payroll - $55.3 million
2015 City of Prince George payroll - $56.3 million
2014 City of Prince George payroll - $48.4 million
Number of city employees making more than $75,000/year in 2017 - 323
Number of city employees making more than $75,000/year in 2016 - 289
Number of city employees making more than $75,000/year in 2015 - 272
Number of city employees making more than $75,000/year in 2014 - 244
Kathleen Soltis, city manager
2017 - $284,480.31
2016 - $239,983.88
2015 - $223,415.51
2014 - $186,659.47 (as corporate services director)
Beth James 2014 - $220,627.82
Rob Whitwham, community services general manager
2017 - 212,661.66
2016 - $189,243.33
2015 - $178,496.55
2014 - $165,881.58
Ian Wells, planning and development general manager
2017 - $210,299.66
2016 - $199,156.34
2015 - $178,060.60
2014 - $152.970.58
Walter Babicz, administrative services general manager
2017 - $207,620.39
2016 - $189,957.46
2015 - $185.951.86
2014 - $153,557.49
Rae-Ann Emery, human resources director
2017 - $198,453.95
2016 - $176,382.90
2015 - $160,472.44 - became a director position in 2015, previously a manager position that reported to the corporate service (now finance) director who had been Soltis before she became city manager
2014 - $122,388.04
Dave Dyer, engineering and public works general manager
2017 - $208,218.80
2016 - $185,637.48
2015 - $153,741.23
2014 - $117,507.06
Assets manager Frank Blues 2014 - $117,663.80
Gina Layte Liston, engineering and public works director
2017 - $203,007.14
2016 - $173,485.39
2015 - $149,392.02
2014 - $120,051.27 ((Frank Blues, see above)
Kris Dallio, finance director
2017 - $183,961.96
2016 - $167,292.92
2015 - $149,984.95
2014 - $103,201.48 (prior to being named finance director)
Rob van Adrichem, external relations director
2017 - $199,911.34
2016 - $177,124.17
Mike Kellett, senior communication officer
2017 - $104,176.06
2016 - $91,081.16
Public sector organizations in Prince George currently hiring communications officers and their salary.
Regional District of Fraser-Fort George - $59,000
UNBC - $56,586.89 - $58,935.35
CNC - $52,051
Prince George office, B.C. Assembly of First Nations - based upon experience