By Stephen Vance, Staff
Meaford’s Deputy Mayor, Harley Greenfield, has asked council to consider a review of the municipality’s full time staff “in an attempt to maximize synergies and efficiencies”, however his fellow councillors have deferred his motion until later this summer.
Greenfield caused a stir earlier this month after he made a notice of motion at the May 11 council meeting indicating that he would be bringing forward a motion that would “have to do with the huge future cost of infrastructure, it will deal with no additional tax increases to cover the infrastructure expenses, it will have very much to do with a workforce adjustment which will free tax dollars for infrastructure needs”.
The words “workforce adjustment” triggered a response from the mayor, who called a special closed-session meeting with councillors and municipal lawyers on Wednesday, May 20 to discuss “a matter related to labour relations and employee negotiations, specifically potential implications arising from a notice of motion, to be considered at an upcoming meeting, on a potential workforce adjustment”.
Greenfield is asking that a review of Meaford’s full-time staff be undertaken in July by an independent consultant, with a maximum cost of $30,000 which would come from the Human Resources reserve fund.
When Greenfield’s motion was formally introduced at council’s May 25 meeting, Councillor Mike Poetker immediately moved to defer, arguing that council should first complete its strategic planning and priorities sessions before tackling a staff review.
Councillor Steven Bartley supports the intent of Greenfield’s motion, and he told council that such a review must be done in order for ratepayers to feel confident that the municipality is appropriately staffed. Bartley noted that during the 2014 election campaign, the number of staff employed by the municipality was a common issue with voters.
“This motion that the Deputy Mayor has brought forward will be the most important thing we do in the next four years. Whether a consultant tells us that we have enough help, not enough help, too much help, it’s got to come out in black and white,” said Bartley. “It may very well be that we need more staff. This motion that Mr. Greenfield has brought forward has to go through some time to put it to rest, to bed once and for all and we can get on with running the municipality.”
The municipality conducted a similar review in 2009 that found that Meaford was appropriately staffed, and if anything required additional staff at that time. Faced with a second year of significant tax increases, and rumours of 2008 ending in another massive deficit, frustrated residents and some members of council voiced concerns that the municipal staff roster was bloated, and demanded that a study be conducted. Then-CAO Frank Miele enlisted the help of a Citizens’ Task Force as well as an independent auditor to ensure objectivity and transparency throughout the five-month review process. The final result of the hundreds of hours of work, which included interviews with all municipal staff members and and an exhaustive look at the services provided by the municipality, was a report from Miele that contained 128 recommendations. The conclusion reached by the independent auditor, the citizens’ task force, and the CAO in 2009 was that staff levels within the municipality were appropriate for the services that the municipality provides.
For now, the Deputy Mayor will have to wait for his motion to be considered by council, as Councillor Poetker’s motion to defer until after the council priorities and strategic planning sessions have been completed was approved by council at the May 25 meeting.