At a budget meeting on Jan. 13, Councillor Brian Standish unsuccessfully tried to convince his council colleagues to take another look at the department’s pitch for additional dollars to fund an extra five hours per week for community peace officers (CPOs).
Officials say the current 35-hour work week has led to recruitment challenges, while an increasing workload from action requests means the department can’t be proactive on some of council’s priorities like off-leash dogs.
“It’s incumbent that we support our staff and it’s preposterous that they don’t work 40 hours a week,” said Coun. Standish, who changed his mind from when he initially opposed this move during service review last month.
“I’m certainly hoping that we can approve that motion so that our bylaw officers can do the job that we expect them to do with those added hours.”
Mayor Karen Sorensen supports Banff’s bylaw officers working 40 hours per week, but said she wants the department to find the funds within in its existing budget, or from increased fine revenues.
She said she’s still reeling from the fact that the $450,000 predicted in additional fine revenues for 2019 associated with hiring two new CPOs didn’t come to fruition.
“In your current ask you suggest that that too is going to come with revenue and I don’t have the experience in the last year to trust that that’s actually what’s going to happen,” she said, adding she understands the hiring process for those two positions was challenging.
For the municipal enforcement department to move from a 35-hour to 40-hour work week would require an additional $50,201 in wages, bringing wages for five positions to $401,773, plus another $12,500 in benefits.
Administration estimated the extra hours would bring $45,000 in additional revenues from writing 450 more tickets a year. That leaves an operational shortfall of $17,700 in the budget for 2020.
The department’s request followed difficulties last year in hiring two new CPOs, whose main job was to focus on traffic safety given police traffic enforcement had tapered off and led to a $500,000 drop in fine revenue.
One of the two CPO positions wasn’t filled until early June last year, while the other one didn’t start until just three weeks ago.
Tony Clark, the Town of Banff’s manager of municipal enforcement, said candidates cited Banff’s high housing prices coupled with a 35-hour week as financially challenging.
“We’re paying comparable to other municipalities, but everyone we compare to are on a 40-hour work week,” Clark said when he first pitched the idea in December.
“So when someone looks at what their salary would be, they see it as lower when compared to other municipalities – so that was one of the frustrations we saw.”
With a 35-hour work week and being short the two newly approved CPOs, bylaw officers struggled to deal with council’s priorities to do proactive enforcement of cannabis, alcohol, dogs off-leash and traffic and parking violations.
Silvio Adamo, the municipality’s protective services director, said the number of action requests also continues to increase year over year, jumping from 713 in 2015 to 1,270 by the end of 2019.
“Our ability to do proactive policing decreases the more action requests we have to deal with,” he said.
Adamo said he is confident that if CPOs work 40 hours a week, and two positions are dedicated to traffic safety as planned, the department can meet the additional revenue targets. He noted the department overall was $50,000 over forecasted revenues in 2019.
“I realize it’s $17,000 and we could technically forecast that with maybe some degree of confidence … but I don’t want to hang us out there, or start establishing quotas,” he said.
“Obviously moving forward with a 40-hour work week would help because we would have more enforcement, which does equate to additional revenue within the department.”
Bylaw services has written about 1,650 traffic related tickets, 9,600 parking tickets and given about 800 warnings in 2019, including for illegal cannabis and smoking or vaping pot in public.
Coun. Grant Canning questioned the department’s ability to go to 40 hours within its existing budget.
During service review in December, he indicated more tickets could be written, noting he’s not a fan of warnings.
“I have no doubt in my mind that if we had more bylaw officers on the streets enforcing the bylaws, then I think that would generate more revenue. It’s just a matter of whether we’re out there proactively enough to catch them,” he said.
“I don’t have much sympathy for people who get a ticket and them turn around and complain about it. For me, it’s very much taking responsibility for your actions – if you do the crime, you pay the fine. It’s really as simple as that.”