BANFF – Banff’s municipal enforcement department wants to go to a 40-hour work week to cover off its heavy workload and offer a more competitive wage package to prospective employees.
The department pitched the idea of five extra hours per week for five staff, excluding the manager, as part of the review of municipal service levels, but council’s 3-3 split vote meant the request to fund the extra hours was turned down.
“I support you in a 40-hour work week,” said Mayor Karen Sorensen, noting administration could decide internally that that’s the best way to go for the department.
“I guess at the end of the day, I am hoping you can do it within the current budget, or from increased revenues.”
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 additional 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 in hiring two new community peace officer (CPO) positions approved in last year’s budget, 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.
Town of Banff officials, however, said that one of two CPO positions wasn’t filled until early June, while the other isn’t scheduled to start until Jan. 1., 2020.
Tony Clark, the Town’s manager of municipal enforcement, said candidates cited high housing prices and the community’s high cost of living, 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,” said he said.
“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.”
In addition, Clark said a 40-hour work week would help with the department’s workload, adding the number of action requests continues to increase year over year – jumping from 679 in 2014 to 1,137 in 2018.
With the 35-hour work week and being short the two newly approved CPOs, bylaw officers also struggled to deal with council’s priorities to do proactive enforcement of cannabis, alcohol, dogs off-leash and traffic and parking violations.
“We were finding we were not getting to a lot of things that council asked us to do,” said Clark.
Mayor Sorensen said she didn’t want to increase the budget for a 40-hour work week, noting she’s still reeling from the fact that the $450,000 predicted in additional fine revenues associated with the two new CPOs didn’t come to fruition this year.
“It was a huge stretch last year for me to support the bylaw asks. With the addition of these two CPOs this was supposed to provide revenue … but that’s not what happened,” she said.
“I completely understand the hiring process was difficult, but 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.”
Silvio Adamo, the municipality’s protective services director, said he has full confidence in the municipal enforcement department’s ability to meet the revenue targets when fully staffed.
“We’re very confident that if we do increase the CPOs to a 40-hour work week, those two dedicated positions to traffic safety will be on the streets for another five hours a week and able to meet those additional revenue targets,” he said.
Bylaw services has written about 1,650 traffic related tickets, 9,600 parking tickets and given about 800 warnings, including for illegal cannabis and smoking or vaping pot in public.
Coun. Canning 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.”
Coun. Brian Standish said it was a tough decision.
“I agree that people should be working 40 hours a week; I don’t have a problem with that,” he said.
“The problem I have is that we need to track this. I need to keep a closer eye on this just to make sure things aren’t going sideways.”
No decisions made during service review are final until the budget is officially approved by motion, which comes back before council on Jan. 13. As it stands now, the current overall tax increase is 6.01 per cent – which includes 3.03 per cent in municipal taxes, 2.95 per cent in provincial education levy and 0.03 per cent for Bow Valley Regional Housing.