Ukee mayor: Municipal payroll brings taxpayers value for money

Ucluelet Mayor Bill Irving believes Ucluetians are getting great value for their tax-dollars when it comes to the municipality’s payroll.

Ucluelet’s municipal council negotiates directly with district CAO Andrew Yeates and then provides Yeates with guidelines for him to work within while negotiating with his management staff and the Canadian Union of Public Employees union.

“There’s three sort of levels that were involved in and to different degrees we monitor and make sure were getting the highest value,” Irving said. “To be quite frank, in our community our employees have been very good at understanding the community environment and coming to agreements that really are mutually beneficial to all parties.”

While union negotiations are largely out of council’s hands, council does negotiate the CAO’s salary and Irving said Yeates earned every penny of his approx. $133,068 salary.

“Each year we do a performance evaluation and then set goals and objectives for the upcoming year and he’s consistently exceeded our expectations and done a very good job,” Irving said of Yeates.

He said there no comparable jobs in the private sector.

“There is no private sector CAO that has those kind of parameters, it just doesn’t exist. Quite frankly I would say municipal administrators are probably not making anywhere near the money that they would if they moved into the private sector.”

Tofino CAO Bob MacPherson could not speak to whether his skill-set would earn more dollars in the private sector because he has worked in the public sector since his early 20’s. “I haven’t actually considered making the jump to the private sector; I like the work that I do,” he said.

Irving said Ucluelet considers what other municipal staffs are being paid when considering their own staff’s salaries but that each municipality requires a different set of skills.

“You have to be careful when you’re comparing to other municipalities and understand Ucluelet has a significant package of issues to deal with that a lot of municipalities just do not have,” he said. “I think we’re getting significant bang for our buck from our staff

on dealing with very large complex issues both at the technical level and the political level.”

He said Ucluelet’s district staff “are accomplishing more for less dollars,” than private sector employees and that there is a fine line to walk when it comes to bringing more hands on deck.

“There’s always that juggling act of trying to keep things moving along but being aware you only have so many dollars to spread around,” he said. “Personally I think we’re maxed out with our staff and if there’s any increase in the economy or an opportunity to partner somehow with the private sector we do have projects in the wings that need more staff time.”

When asked if there is pressure to offer competitive wages in order to retain key municipal players, Irving said Ucluelet’s staff retention is more focused on career progression.

“The staff has now an expectation that if they do a good job then there’s a long-term future in Ucluelet, I think that’s a good sense of partnership that we’ve tried to build in our staff,” he said. “Maybe not providing top dollar but we are providing a clear opportunity for transition and succession.”

He acknowledged there is a perception that public employees are better compensated than those in the private sector but said this perception is simply not true.

“Each council member goes through that same question when they look at salaries,” he said. “Our discussions fall back on ‘what are we trying to accomplish and then what kind of dollars do we need

to accomplish that and attract the kind of people who want to stay here and see these things through.'” He suggested Ucluelet would spend four to five times as much money on consultants to do the same kind of work the municipality’s staff gets done.

“Our municipality takes a very careful look at the kind of product were getting out of our staff,” he said. “We also recognize that that money comes out of our tax-payers’ pockets and we’re very accountable to that.”