Accessibility/Mobile Features
Skip Navigation
Skip to Content
Editorial News
Classified Sites

Brandon Sun - PRINT EDITION

Councillors take aim at salaries for protective services

Mayor Shari Decter Hirst listens in during the City of Brandon’s 2014 budget deliberations at city hall on Friday.

TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN Enlarge Image

Mayor Shari Decter Hirst listens in during the City of Brandon’s 2014 budget deliberations at city hall on Friday.

Brandon city councillors may try to target protective services as a source of cuts as budget deliberations begin this morning.

Chief Ian Grant of the Brandon Police Service speaks during the city’s 2014 budget deliberations on Friday.

Enlarge Image

Chief Ian Grant of the Brandon Police Service speaks during the city’s 2014 budget deliberations on Friday. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)

During an informal meeting in which department heads had a chance to defend budget requests yesterday, many councillors voiced concern regarding the ever-climbing costs of wages for police, fire and 911 dispatch workers.

As city council debates a possible 2.13 per cent property tax hike for 2014, some people still haven't paid their 2012 taxes.The city released 2014's first weekly list of properties that are at least two years behind on paying their property taxes, and there are a few familiar names on the list.More than 220 property owners still haven't paid the bills from last year and the year before. If the taxes aren't paid by October, they could go to auction.Most of the bills are for a few thousand dollars, but several are larger.The biggest bill is nearly $282,000 for Shape Foods, which has been regularly on the list for the last few years. That includes $134,000 for last year and nearly $148,000 for the year before. In 2013, Shape Foods managed to pay its 2011 bill just in time to avoid an auction.A few other properties owe significant amounts, including:• $53,214 for an oil change shop at 1712 Rosser Ave.• $44,360 for a defunct truck stop at 721 Middleton Ave.• $29,770 for a dance and martial arts studio located at 122 10th St.• $28,776 for a fitness club at 863 10th St.• $24,557 for a recycling company's building at 620 Richmond Ave. East• $24,347 for a former restaurant at 701 Rosser Ave.The city updates the list every week.Meanwhile, the city reminds taxpayers that they can actually get up to a two per cent discount on their property taxes if they pay early.» Brandon Sun

Firefighter and paramedic wages are set to rise from a total of $7.3 million last year to nearly $7.9 million this year, with 2015 costs predicted to be $8.2 million — costs set by union arbitration.

Coun. Jeff Fawcett (Assiniboine) said Brandon Fire and Emergency Services Chief Brent Dane and the city have to take a hard look at those costs.

"We have citizens saying get it under control," Fawcett said. "By not being able to address any of this, you have to cut everything else."

He said he doesn’t expect council to make any "draconian" moves to address the issue today as council mulls over the $75.3-million budget line by line, but says he does hope to push the city and the union to come together to "stabilize this."

Coun. Garth Rice (South Centre) suggested a national strategy be implemented to address the wage issue.

Ultimately, the city can only control the amount of money the services get, and Dane pointed out to council yesterday that a budget cut or freeze could lead to layoffs.

Coun. Stephen Montague (Richmond) — who has been vocal about taking a sharp knife to staffing — said council could hit a breaking point regarding wages during today’s meeting.

"We get to the point where residents are tapped out, we’re looking at shifting resources to protective services to pay for these wages," he said.

In 2012, the union representing E-911 dispatchers demanded a 34 per cent increase over two years, plus a similar increase in benefits. However, the results of the arbitration in November have yet to be revealed.

Along with firefighters, police salaries have also soared and have been scrutinized this year when the Sun reported that they had risen by more than 45 per cent since 2005. A first-class constable now makes more than $84,000 a year, plus significant overtime and other extra pay.

It was mentioned during yesterday’s meeting that police overtime has been reduced from last year, and Chief Ian Grant pointed to the service’s retirement incentive program to lower wage costs.

Total salary costs for police, dispatch and E-911 services are budgeted at $15.1 million this year, up from $14.5 million in 2013. The budget foresees costs of $15.7 million in 2015.

This is the first year the Brandon Police Board, which was created in 2013, has been part of the budget process with city council, and the two bodies still have to sort out their respective responsibilities.

The board only deals with the police service’s operating budget and the city still oversees its capital budget.

During the protective services portion of the meeting, which spilled late into the evening, city manager Scott Hildebrand outlined the findings of a short investigation into replacing the Brandon Police Service with the RCMP.

Included in his laundry list of reasons to keep the BPS, Hildebrand said wages of comparable constables of the BPS and RCMP are "close" and an RCMP constable gets to the top wage rate after 36 months compared to 60 months with the Brandon force.

He also pointed out municipalities that have never been policed by the RCMP must pay 100 per cent of contracting policing services.

After some housekeeping last night, council is now looking at a proposed 2.13 per cent tax hike, and Hildebrand said a zero per cent tax increase is not "prudent."

Council heard from close to 15 departments throughout the evening as it armed itself with the information needed to get through today’s deliberations.

While all councillors asked many questions, Coun. Shawn Berry (Linden Lanes) in particular took the time to scrutinize the many smaller budget lines, including those for consultation, legal and conference costs.

Councillors and administration also discussed the Sportsplex, the Wheat City Golf Course, city infrastructure and the airport.

The meeting lasted well into the evening and didn’t wrap up before press time.

The formal budget deliberation, which begins today at 8 a.m. at Brandon City Hall, is open to the public.

For more budget updates over the weekend, visit brandonsun.com.

The full story will be in Monday’s Brandon Sun.

» gbruce@brandonsun.com

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 11, 2014

  • Rate this Rate This Star Icon
  • This article has not yet been rated.
  • We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high. If you thought it was well written, do the same. If it doesn’t meet your standards, mark it accordingly.

    You can also register and/or login to the site and join the conversation by leaving a comment.

    Rate it yourself by rolling over the stars and clicking when you reach your desired rating. We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high.

Sort by: Newest to Oldest | Oldest to Newest | Most Popular 0 Commentscomment icon

You can comment on most stories on brandonsun.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is register and/or login and you can join the conversation and give your feedback.

There are no comments at the moment. Be the first to post a comment below.

Post Your Commentcomment icon

Comment
  • You have characters left

The Brandon Sun does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. Comments are moderated before publication. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Brandon city councillors may try to target protective services as a source of cuts as budget deliberations begin this morning.

During an informal meeting in which department heads had a chance to defend budget requests yesterday, many councillors voiced concern regarding the ever-climbing costs of wages for police, fire and 911 dispatch workers.

Please subscribe to view full article.

Already subscribed? Login to view full article.

Not yet a subscriber? Click here to sign up

Brandon city councillors may try to target protective services as a source of cuts as budget deliberations begin this morning.

During an informal meeting in which department heads had a chance to defend budget requests yesterday, many councillors voiced concern regarding the ever-climbing costs of wages for police, fire and 911 dispatch workers.

Subscription required to view full article.

A subscription to the Brandon Sun Newspaper is required to view this article. Please update your user information if you are already a newspaper subscriber.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

Brandon Sun Business Directory
Submit a Random Act of Kindness
Why Not Minot?
Welcome to Winnipeg

Social Media