UPDATE: City announces elimination of nine management positions, one union job

City declines to release the names of those affected

City manager George Murray

City manager George Murray

Nine managers and one union position will be cut from city hall as part of a “new organizational structure” that will save the city more than $1.25 million annually, according to city manager George Murray.

Ten positions will be eliminated at city hall, but only seven people will be leaving, as some positions that are currently vacant won’t be filled.

Murray told The News the initiatives will not have an effect on the public or services provided, and added that none of the job cuts were due to a recent incident in which city staff dumped chicken manure on a homeless camp.

He declined to name the individuals leaving the city, citing privacy issues. All the changes in staff are within parks, recreation and culture, and engineering and regional utilities departments.

Additionally, general manager of economic development Jay Teichroeb and general manager of finance Pat Soanes  recently left their top positions at city hall. Murray declined to comment on their departures, whether severance will be paid, and whether they left voluntarily.

Since taking the city manager position at the City of Abbotsford on Feb. 4, Murray has cited finding efficiencies within city hall as part of his mandate.

He began by taking over a proposed core services review, with an original budget of $200,000 to be done externally. Murray instead elected to look for efficiencies internally, asking council for a budget of $50,000 to use if necessary.

On June 10, he took the results of his organizational analysis, along with recommendations, to city council.

Murray said the restructuring is “about saving money,” and “making sure people have good, meaningful work to do.”

Mayor Bruce Banman said that when Murray was hired, he was given direction to go through departments and find opportunities to save money, and “that’s exactly what he’s done.”

Banman said that the taxpayers of Abbotsford demanded that the city stop increasing taxes and feels the changes are a step towards making that happen.

“I’m satisfied with the results and I think the taxpayer will be too.”

When asked how much the city might pay in severance or buyout packages for those leaving, Murray said the majority have been given working notice, and will end their positions when the projects they are engaged in come to an end, therefore severance payments are not required. When asked about the others, Murray declined to disclose details of compensation, or if anyone was terminated with cause.

He said that due to some of the changes, certain individuals have received promotions and will see respective salary increases, but the majority of the changes are about spreading the work amongst current staff members.

A key change to come in the restructuring is in the parks department, in that it will now operate out of the Abbotsford Recreation Centre and the Matsqui Recreation Centre. Banman said that this will be a positive move, bringing management closer to frontline workers.

Murray said a key feature of the restructuring is “cleaning up” the reporting relationship of who reports to whom.

He added that certain segments of the city were duplicating services, such as the parks department’s maintenance team, which will now operate under public works.

One of the bigger changes is the creation of a deputy city manager position. Murray said that person will take over leadership roles for a number of services, including finance and corporate services, economic development and property services.

When asked whether further staff cuts are in sight at city hall, Murray said that “change is inevitable,” but added that there are currently no plans for further lay-offs. Murray said that as the city has a staff of about 900 to 1,000 people, the current changes can be viewed as minimal.

“We will always be looking for ways to make ourselves more efficient … but prefer to achieve staff changes through attrition and not layoffs.”