It will cost the taxpayers of the Town of High Prairie $40,480.
And it is worth every cent!
Town employees are requesting a two per cent cost of living increase in 2018 despite an agreed fact that the consumer price index is only 1.4 per cent. The matter was debated at council’s Dec. 12 meeting.
Last year, council agreed to a 0.7 per cent increase, in addition to two days off granted by council. The two days off was in lieu of increasing the cost of living increase.
It is not hard to see where staff is coming from. If they don’t get the two days off in 2018, they have in fact fallen behind.
“Although this exceeds the present index it is thought that this would allow us to make up for years past that we were not keeping up and had fallen behind…” wrote Anita Fisher on behalf of town employees.
Treasurer Terri Wiebe has calculated the cost to be $40,480 for the entire staff. It prompted the comment from Councillor Debbie Rose.
“I don’t know if two per cent is something we can afford.”
Council has been down this road before. Let it be known that none of the current councillors were part of previous decisions made years ago when council penny-pinched to save money. A few employees left for the richer wages of the then M.D. of Big Lakes with its overflowing coffers and higher pay grids. Years later, the town’s pay grid was adjusted, much to the chagrin of the council at the time, who had to find a way to foot the bills for higher wages due to past decisions.
Rose is not saying the request will be denied but her response was one which council repeats over and over: “We can’t afford it.”
I would suggest that council can afford it, especially since they show little desire to cut their losses on a $450,000 annual deficit at the indoor pool. The town’s share is $230,000 so how can anyone suggest that a cost of living increase for every single town employee is something they can’t afford.
For all intents and purposes, town employees have recognized the difficulties council is having in trying to balance their budget and keep taxes at a similar rate. By postponing cost of living increases, they have done their part.
I do not believe for one second that council will refuse this increase. Their decision is to further deliberate it at final budget.
If council wants to balance the budget, it is time to look elsewhere and not do it on the backs of their hard-working and dedicated employees. They have already done their part.