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Pay increases ‘out of line,’ according to Abbotsford councillor

Thirty-one city employees saw their incomes increase by more than 10 per cent in 2011, costing taxpayers an additional $462,000.

Last week, the city released a list of employees who earned more than $75,000. Of those 211 people, 89 earned more than $100,000.

In total, Abbotsford’s employee payroll was more than $3.5 million higher in 2011 than in 2010.

That’s equivalent to a municipal tax hike of about 3.5 per cent.

The 2010 total payroll was $42.2 million. In 2011, it rose to $45.8 million – about 8.4 per cent.

Abbotsford Coun. Henry Braun said that figure is “not realistic."

“We can’t afford this,” he said, adding the world financial system has changed. He called the increase “unsustainable” and “out of line.”

Unionized employees got a three per cent increase in 2011, and Braun said the overall figure should be closer to that level.

He pointed to the city’s 1.6 per cent increase in municipal taxes this year, noting it wouldn’t have covered last year’s earning increase.

“I still haven’t got my arms around how this happened,” he said, adding “you have to be a forensic accountant” to go over the city statements.

Braun said staff have to stop comparing wage brackets with other cities, like Surrey or Langley, which have residents with higher per household incomes.

“They have to be in line with our city,” Braun said. “There would be very few people who got raises, as a percentage, as what our employees got.”

Pat Soanes, general manager of finance and corporate services, said the 8.4 per cent overall increase was impacted by a previous oversight.

It was found that some taxable benefits were not being included in total staff earnings, she said. These included medical services payments, car allowances and some extended health benefits.

Soanes said that totalled about $800,000 paid on behalf of employees, which wasn’t reported in previous years.

“In reporting it in 2011, it makes 2011 numbers look considerably higher than the previous year.”

Soanes broke down the 8.4 per cent overall increase as follows:

Two per cent for the taxable benefits; three per cent for union contracts and non-union compensation; 1.7 per cent for length of service increases; 0.7 per cent for reclassification of positions (promotions); 0.5 per cent for overtime; and 0.5 per cent for retirement gratuity.

Income increases can be impacted by several factors, including salary increase, overtime, and buying out holidays.

Of the 211 names on the list, 80 were in the fire department and have the potential to earn overtime; six employees earned less than last year; and 33 were not on last year’s payroll, so no comparison could be made.

That left 92 employees on the list who received increases in 2011.

Of those, 24 saw their income rise by five per cent or less; 37 saw an increase ranging from 5.1 to 10 per cent; 21 earned between 10.1 and 15 per cent more; and 10 had hikes of more than 15 per cent.

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