by Jessica Jones
Pipestone Flyer freelance reporter
The City of Wetaskiwin has saved close to $1 million following a corporate organizational restructuring, which has resulted in 10 staff positions being eliminated from its ranks.
The changes came into effect at the end of January as the city looked to find “organizational efficiencies wherever possible.”
Acting City Manager Sue Howard explained that administration examined all staff positions to eliminate unnecessary expenses.
“Areas were identified where additional staff capacity existed,” she said.
“Administration looked for duplication of services to try and streamline positions, and we were careful to ensure that these decisions did not affect current service levels,” Howard added.
The 10 positions eliminated were City Clerk, Fire Services OA, Community Development Coordinator, Computer Tech II, Fleet Supervisor, FCSS OA III, Source Control Maternity Leave Term staff, Facilities Foreman and Aquatics Operations Coordinator. Three other positions were repurposed to address gaps in service.
“Ratepayers have been very concerned about the affordability of a tax increase, and we want them to know that the budget being presented to city council in March has no extras,” Howard said. “We value our employees, and this was not an easy decision to make.”
The staff who lost their jobs received the mandated Alberta Employment Standards payout in lieu of notice. Some also received additional compensation that varied on different factors, such as years of service, position hierarchy and early retirement.
The decisions not only assisted with cost-savings but it also gave administration and senior management more understanding of the organization in its entirety, Howard explained.
“It allowed us to further break down silos, improving our focus on customer service through efficient and sustainable processes,” she said.
The organizational restructuring came after Wetaskiwin city council “continued to challenge city administration,” deeming a 7.05 per cent tax increase unacceptable following budget deliberations in January.
“This was not an acceptable tax increase,” Howard said of council’s viewpoint. “The only place left to look at this point was staffing, so administration underwent a full review of current staffing,” Howard noted, further mentioning that the changes came into affect as administration was working on a “zero-based budget process.”
A zero-based budget process, Howard explained, is the notion of budgeting for what is needed to meet council approved levels of service.
“You start your budget at zero and build based on what your service levels are,” she said.
“We decided to really break it down and look at every single line item in our budget and start at zero. This will give staff, council and the public the confidence that we are truly asking for what is needed to meet our objectives.”
Final budget deliberations will take place March 14 and 15 at Wetaskiwin City Hall.