While taxes keep climbing, so do salaries at Maple Ridge city hall.
According to 2014’s financial statement, Maple Ridge’s total wage tab for those above the $75,000-a-year threshold jumped to $17,417,541.
That’s an increase of $3,473,074 from the previous year, a 25-per-cent jump.
“That’s a lot,” said Mayor Nicole Read.
Council is reviewing the entire financial plan and will start this summer by determining what areas it wants to focus on when budget discussions start in the fall, Read said.
“The first step is for council to meet and make decisions on what exactly we will be looking at when we review the budget.”
Financial general manager Paul Gill said the increase is a result of employees moving up the pay grids. As they do so, more are earning more than $75,000 and are then added to the list of those earning above that amount.
Retroactive pay from union settlements is also a big part of pushing up the salary costs. Members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees received a wage increase of 1.25 per cent in 2012 and 1.75 per cent in 2013. But those were paid retroactively in 2014.
Overall, however, when all wages are considered, the city’s total salaries paid out last year was only $2.2 million more than 2013.
With more Maple Ridge employees earning above $75,000, as a result, fewer are earning below that threshold.
In 2014, that came to $16,625,760.
That’s a reduction of $1.2 million or about seven per cent from the year before. However, more money was paid out in benefits.
The top earner in the city continued to be the chief administrative officer. Jim Rule, who recently retired, earned $249,778 in 2014. That’s $20,000 more than the previous year, although time in lieu or vacation payouts can alter yearly amounts.
In 2014, the remaining top 10 earners in Maple Ridge city hall:
• Kelly Swift, general manager, community development and recreation services – $201,546;
• Paul Gill, gm, corporate and financial services – $200,179;
• Frank Quinn, gm, public works – $199,901;
• Dane Spence, fire chief – $166,660;
• Dave Boag, director of parks and facilities – $161,376;
• David Pollock, municipal engineer – $155,755;
• Christine Carter, director of planning – $155,435;
• Russ Carmichael, director of engineering operations – $154,605;
• Howard Exner, deputy fire chief – $152,899;
• Frances King, director of human resources – $147,239.
Several other employees saw increases of 10 to 20 per cent, but that’s a result of overtime or wages paid out in lieu of time owing. Non-union staff received the same increases as union staff.
While salaries of staff go up, the salaries of Maple Ridge councillors stay the same, for now.
One of the items up for budget discussion is council wages. Those have been frozen since 2009 and weren’t changed under the previous council.
Councillors make about $43,000 a year, while the mayor makes about $99,000.
But council has more pressing items now, the mayor added.
“I think it needs to be reviewed as a matter of prudence.
“I don’t know there’s a council appetite to do that early. When we have that conversation, we want to have a year under our belts to have produced something out to the public.”
On the other hand, council wages should be comparable to other cities so drastic increases aren’t needed later.
“It’s a question of what’s a reasonable amount,” Read said.
“This council is more focused on the work. We’re working really hard. We have more meetings this year than last year, for sure. We’re working pretty much non stop.”