What will Vancouver taxpayers think of their new CFO's gold-plated contract?
A freedom of information request by CityCaucus.com has revealed an extremely generous compensation package for the City's new Chief Financial Officer Patrice Impey that will surely raise the blood pressure of homeowners bracing for a record-breaking 8% tax increase. The news of the exhorbitant pay follows on the heels of the news reported by the estimable Gary Mason over at the Globe and Mail on former CFO Estelle Lo's $450,000 severance package.
The details of Impey's pay package are outlined in her offer of employment letter which you can download here. The highlights are:
- Of a possible salary range of $179,171 to $223,969, Ms. Impey is receiving the top pay scale, maxxed out at $223,969
- Ms. Impey will be receiving benefit entitlements reflecting 20 years of service
- Once she has completed 3 months of employment, Patrice Impey qualifies for one-year full salary if she is released for any reason
However, the devil is in the details as they say, and while a $224K salary might not seem too over the top for a CFO, the benefits Ms. Impey qualifies for put her into the stratosphere when it comes to executive civil service pay packages.
According to the Exempt Employee Handbook (copy available here), the bible for all benefits and perks for City staff, as a "20 year employee" Ms. Impey qualifies for 10 weeks vacation right off the bat! The pro-rated value of 10 weeks based upon her salary is $45,000 per year.
That's two and a half months vacation per year before even working a few weeks at City Hall. Of course, any time not used for this vacation is accrued and paid out as a lump sum upon leaving her position.
To top it off, Ms. Impey will receive a public service pension based upon 20 long years in the public service, without so much as having to work her way up the ladder and suffering the slings and arrows that other public servants endure.
This is how the politicians really stick it to the taxpayers, especially at the City of Vancouver. Instead of transparently listing the full cost of an employee like Ms. Impey at over $300,000 per year (the rough value of her compensation, plus vacation and other perks), they "hide" the real cost of these rich pay packages. Until something changes, we'll continue to see more outcomes like when Estelle Lo, Judy Rogers and others leave City Hall with armloads of cash.
We ask, why not just show what these people are getting paid instead of masking it? Part of the answer lies in a City Council who are sending signals that they are cutting costs, when they're really doing nothing of the sort.
Maureen Bader, B.C. Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation has a few choice words on the news of Patrice Impey's gold-plated, perk-laden pay package. "You have to be on a different planet – a happy planet – to award 20 years of benefits to a new employee," says Bader. "City Hall is out of touch with the concerns of property tax paying citizens. If you thought the property tax hike was outrageous this year, just wait until next year. We have businesses struggling to make payroll, and here we have City Hall offering such generous pay and perk packages."
Bader and her organization are calling upon senior levels of government to install a "property tax cap" on all municipalities to curb what she labels "out of control spending."
The current City Council, who hires the City's CFO, would have signed off on Ms. Impey's contract. Due to the complexities of Vancouver civil service perks, we may never know until after Ms. Impey leaves City Hall the full extent of her compensation. We'll quote heavily from Mason's excellent article below, which starts to detail a byzantine list of benefits that employees are entitled to.
Let's start with vacation. Employees at the city of Vancouver, unionized and management, are entitled to 30 days of vacation after 24 years. (Ms. Lo, who had worked at city hall for 10 years, was entitled to 20 days off). That isn't out of line with the private sector, but if you work at city hall you can carry over vacation time from one year to the next and cash out any unused portion when you want to. (City employees also get five days of supplementary vacation in the 11th year and every five years after).
These days, most businesses in Canada insist workers use up their vacation by year's end or lose it - with no option to cash out unused time.
Staff at the city of Vancouver also get 11 paid statutory holidays a year.
Then there are "gratuity days."
All city hall staff, including managers with free cars, get a credit of three working days off per year for each year of service up to a maximum of 120 days off. Just for showing up to work. They can cash these in, too, if they wish.
There are also "earned days off." For working an additional half hour a day (which would make for a 40-hour work week), an employee can get an additional 18 days off a year.
Add it up and managers who have been at city hall 10 years can take months off a year if they want to. Or they can tack on thousands of dollars more to their year-end paycheques by cashing unused time owed.
(All staff can accumulate sick-leave credits too. Workers are allowed 10 sick days a year at full pay. They can accumulate sick-day credits up to 261 days).
Rest assured, this current government and its City Manager, who were bought and paid for by the public sector unions, have no political will to change any of these conditions. Mayor Robertson promised to "review" these terms, but you can kiss that goodbye.
Vancouver taxpayers who were duped by CUPE's Sam's Strike rhetoric in 2007 are only now starting to understand the true impact on their wallets of letting public sector unions run the show.