The Canada Day long weekend is usually cause for celebration – but for many South Okanagan-South Similkameen property owners, the long weekend jubilation is tempered by the reality of the early July due date for municipal tax bills.
The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of British Columbia has taken a look at compensation packages handed over to municipal employees for the second year in a row – and their research shows that public sector workers receive pay and benefits packages that are 30 to 40 per cent higher than workers doing similar jobs in the public sector.
The ICBA concludes: “With staffing costs chewing up more than half municipal budgets – it’s the compensation inequity that is driving taxes in one direction – up.” The association sees wages and benefits to outfactor other reasons given by local government for increased taxation – inflation, growth and higher demand for services.
During budget consultations this spring, while residents in Keremeos and the surrounding regions were told that municipalities had “held the line on spending” we nonetheless saw modest increases of one to three per cent – and according to ICBA, those increases have added up.
Spending increases have outstripped inflation and growth combined, says the association. If municipal increases had been held to the rate of inflation and growth, taxpayers would have been left with four billion dollars in their pockets.
ICBA President Philop Hochstein is urging the public to work with the association to push for provincial legislation – a “compensation equity act”- that would force public employers to bring their pay and benefits in line with the private sector.
Municipal employees in the village receive the following compensation for 2011 to 2012. Union employees received 1.5 per cent increases in each year
Vacation: Three weeks after one year
Four weeks after nine years
Five weeks after 17 years
Six weeks after 21 years
Paid sick leave – no accumulation. Doctor’s note required after three days.
Total Residential Property Taxes & Charges on a representative house in Keremeos:
Per centage increase 2007-2011 3.15 per cent
At the regional district, union employees under the BCGEU were receiving the following rates, which are subject to change following ratification of a new contract by the regional district board later this week
Based on Jan. 1/11 rates, BCGEU Staff receive:
1. Lowest full time starting wage: $19.54
2.Vacation: One year to six years – three weeks
six years to 14 years- four weeks
14 years to 24 years – five weeks
24 and up – six weeks
3. Health Leave: 1/2 day per month up to a maximum of 10 days.