Politics is a business made for skilled liars, but there is no one left with a stake in the continued operation of Victoria City Hall with enough hubris to deny that the city is bleeding money and has been for longer than any of those same people would care to admit. With no choice left but to face this reality, council recently committed to a budget cut of at least $6 million over the next three years, with individual councillors vowing publicly to leave no stone unturned in the search for enough cash to keep the administration afloat.
Fortunately, a recent press release from Integrity BC drew attention to the bloated salaries of B.C. municipal employees compared to ranking U.S. administrators. Curious local politicians thus discovered that seven of the City of Victoria’s top-paid employees make more than the White House chief of staff, providing some hints as to where savings might be found.
Coun. Shellie Gudgeon was the first of Victoria’s pols to make the connection, asking in a recent blog post whether the city is “in the business of providing employment or is the City in the business of providing affordable, quality services to our residents?” While she acknowledges the process will be a difficult one, Gudgeon says the city has no choice but to streamline its work force.
In a recent interview, Coun. Lisa Helps echoed Gudgeon’s concerns, both for the livelihoods of Victoria employees and looming budget shortfalls. “To be honest, everything is on the table. When we talk about layoffs and pay cuts we are talking about people’s livelihoods so this is no light matter.”
There will be much baying and brow-beating as the herd is thinned down, and this is only the beginning. The next few years will not be easy down at Pandora’s box and staff costs are just the first in a long list of unnecessary items on the books. Staff and council racked up expenses to the tune of $72,000 in 2011, and the city continues to throw money at flower gardens, 150th anniversary celebrations and self-congratulatory promotional campaigns.
The days of million-dollar consultant’s reports, lavish parties and solid gold bridges are over for the City of Victoria, and there is nothing but hard times ahead. M