The impending gloom of a long recession will often cause organizations to re-evaluate their coffers. In St. Albert’s case that means deferring some new staff positions indefinitely.
According to city manager Bill Holtby, administration will hold off filling three new staff positions this year and next to save about $200,000. The decision, said Holtby, was made to mitigate the impact extra spending would have on taxpayers in 2010.
“I indicated to [council] that one of the things that I was going to do was try and mitigate the costs in 2009 that would carry forward into 2010,” Holtby explained.
Last fall, council asked administration to delay the start date of 14 new positions until September of this year instead of the usual April 1 start date. The decision saved more than $300,000.
According to Holtby, three of those 14 have been delayed indefinitely until administration can more accurately predict costs and revenues for the 2010 budget this fall. The rest will be filled Sept. 1.
“On the staffing front we know that 2010 is going to be a challenging year,” he said “We need to look at areas that we can reduce costs so we can in turn minimize that tax increase in 2010.”
The three positions that are delayed are for a landscape technologist, environmental management staff person and an operational support person for business and tourism development, said Holtby.
He indicated that resources could be shifted to make up for the loss of those positions.
“The ones that are not proceeding are the ones where we don’t believe there is as strong a demand in those areas … we could, organizationally, work together to try and fill the mandates we had for each of the positions.”
Holtby added that approval for new hires has been bumped up to his desk from general managers and directors, but he did concede the city’s new information officer for its curbside recycling program was hired over and above what was originally budgeted.
“With that new program we needed an additional resource for that position, but it’s term specific and the cost is being paid for out of the program,” said Holtby.
He said administration has already filled 14 different staff positions this year, 10 of which are “cost neutral” meaning money was in place for them from 2008.
Holtby expects the city’s 500 employees to experience a 16 per cent turnover rate similar to 2008, double 2005’s eight per cent rate. He said the high rate of turnover has a lot to do with the boom-time economy prior to the recession, and the economic downturn should start nudging that number down.
“The recession should put it back down to say that eight per cent because there’s less movement and less opportunity for jobs.”
Next week, administration will meet with council in private to present early figures for the 2010 budget.
Coun. Gareth Jones said, although it’s still early, council will examine the 2010 budget with as much scrutiny as it did last year.
“The downturn hit us late in the year [last year],” said Jones. “We’ve had more time to experience what’s going, and obviously from that experience there’s going to be just as many questions as last year, if not more.”