LETTER: Summerland municipal staffing has changed

LETTER: Summerland municipal staffing has changed

Councillor responds to claims and statements in earlier letter

Dear Editor:

In his letter of July 5, Ian McIntosh implies that staff turn-over is a problem in Summerland and council is to blame. He begins by saying Summerland has “burned through one CAO……….”

Human resources matters are confidential but if you do some searches you will find a lot of information regarding retirements of Summerland district staff, including a story in the Penticton Herald Sept. 17, 2014 announcing the CAO’s retirement Dec. 31, 2014.

This was long before the election. How could this have anything to do with the current council?

McIntosh also lists new positions, including a position in development services.

When he was with the district, there were three people in the department. When one person left they were not replaced. Construction is strong again and we are going back to three employees.

He also includes an economic development officer as a new position. There has been an economic development officer in Summerland several times, including when McIntosh was with the district. Our current economic development officer is on a term position funded by a grant from the provincial government.

Similarly, the cultural centre project manager will be funded by a provincial grant and will only be with us until the centre is completed.

We have hired a new human resource manager, which is essential in an organization of Summerland’s size today. Their wages will be partially offset by reduced consulting fees.

Two weeks ago, I had a conversation with a previous councillor who mentioned council had considered hiring a human resource officer 10 years ago. The time has finally come.

We are also hiring a professional electrical engineer. Summerland owns its power distribution system but has never had its own fully qualified electrical engineer. Their salary will again be partially offset by reduced consulting fees. The $6,000,000 grant to install solar power means the need for a professional electrical engineer will increase.

The sustainability/alternative energy coordinator is also part of this initiative and a new position, but it is likely we would not have received this grant without their contribution. This position enables us to get other grant funding.

Lastly, McIntosh says his current tax bill is 30 per cent more than in 2014. In Summerland, the recent tax increases have been:

• 2018: 2.75 per cent, including 1.0 per cent to capital reserves for infrastructure replacement

• 2017: 4.00 per cent, including 1.8 per cent to capital reserves for infrastructure replacement

• 2016: 3.00 per cent

• 2015: 3.00 per cent

Property taxes depend not only on the municipal, regional district and school taxes but often, in part, how much their property value changed in relation to other properties.

We have had larger increases in our water utility. This was necessary as it was severely underfunded.

Previous councils had zero increases but, as my mother used to say, “sooner or later you have to pay the piper.”

Some councils put through zero increases, cut back staffing and postpone capital reinvestment. This is similar to company managers maximizing short-term profits while ignoring replacement of plant and equipment.

In the business community it is done so management and directors can get immediate bonuses and in politics it is done to score political points.

In both cases it is shortsighted and harmful to long-term viability.

In Summerland we will soon get a report on the state of our infrastructure. My guess is, from being an accountant and observing previous councils, you had better be sitting down when you read it.

Coun. Richard Barkwill