A ‘tough budget’ to blame for employee dismissals


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After hiding behind the no-comment curtain for several weeks, the less-than-transparent brass over at Elgin St. Thomas Public Health passed along a media release this week to shed some light on recent events.

According to Executive Director Cynthia St. John, the organization has approved its 2010 mandatory programs and services budget, resulting in an overall increase of 3%.

The “tough budget,” as characterized by St. John, is the reason being touted for the dismissal of four employees last month, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

“We anticipated it was going to be a tough budget year and a 3% increase is insufficient to meet current demands for the services we provide,” she notes.

The organization received an increase of 5% in 2009, however it received direction from its provincial funders that public health units should not count on more than 3% this year.

“In order to work within this limited funding envelope,” she continued, “staffing has been reduced by 3.45 FTEs (full-time employees). The majority of reductions will be handled through attrition and requested job shares.”

That’s a standard toe-the-company line explanation for job reductions. You have to ask, were any of the four individuals long-term employees only several years away from retirement?

Was one of the employees still grieving the loss of a spouse when they became an expendable FTE?

“ESTPH has a very dedicated and hard-working group of staff,” St. John continues, “but in the end, administration, health promotion, and health protection services will have fewer resources in terms of supplies and people.

“Some reductions may impact certain service delivery and impact staff’s participation in various initiatives.”

No programs have been eliminated with this budget, she assures.

All of which begs the question, with a 3% cap on funding, how does the executive director justify a $25,000 increase in salary last year?

What scrutiny was applied by Ald. Bill Aarts and the rest of the board to this healthy increase in annual remuneration?

If anticipating a tough budget year in 2010, shouldn’t St. John have set an example in 2009?

With this apparent glimmer of transparency emanating from the organization this week, can we now direct attention to the rationale for moving from their current home on Edward Street?

DIDN’T SEE THAT ONE COMING

Popular television host (and now investigative reporter) Dan Reith threw a dandy left-field curve at mayoral hopeful Mark Cosens on this week’s program.

A pointed series of questions on the whereabouts of a $40,000 community improvement grant from the city had candidate Cosens in notable defensive mode.

At stake is the issue of repayment of the loan, after Cosens declared bankruptcy. And his insistence it had nothing to do with him, and it’s the city that dropped the ball, only adds to the intrigue.

We’ll have the complete transcript of what took place next week in this corner.

TRANSIT TURMOIL

Faithful reader and accessibility advocate Stan Taylor is steaming mad at the city and its treatment of paratransit riders.

He passed along the following advisory to City Scope on Friday.

“For the hundreds of elderly residents of Valleyview and other retirement and nursing homes in St. Thomas, city council has a mid-April surprise.

“While they have allowed our taxes to rise, council has decided to cut back on special transit service, from three buses to two. They say this is only a test, however it surely will test seniors as they spend much more time getting to and from medical and other appointments, more time riding over our bumpy and pot-holed streets.

“Many of these riders have raised families in St. Thomas, worked here, and paid property taxes. Welcome to St. Thomas ‘short-sighted’ Transit. How soon we forget.”

Rest assured, Stan won’t let this issue vanish off the radar screen.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“It’s unfortunate that exclusive agreements are involved, especially because we’re a local brewery.”

Paul Corriveau, co-owner of Railway City Brewing Company, on the exclusive agreement between the International Plowing Match and Molson Coors Canada that will keep the brewery out of the 2010 plowing match.

City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be e-mailed to: mccallum@stthomastimesjournal.com.

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One thought on “A ‘tough budget’ to blame for employee dismissals

  1. TOUGH TO SWALLOW

    In troubled times, a 21.4% salary increase for anyone already making over $100,000 is special.
    The $26,448 increase is difficult to comprehend against a backdrop of headcount reduction and a restricted financial budget.
    On the reductions it would be helpful to understand;
    1. How many people are employed by the Elgin St. Thomas Public Health?
    2. What is the split between management and staff?
    3. What specific work was being done by the 3.45 FTEs?
    4. What happened to the work that was done by the 3.45 FTEs that were axed; is that work no longer being performed; has that work been absorbed by existing headcount?
    5. How many management positions have been reduced in this year’s “tough budget”?
    The snippet of information released by the Elgin St. Thomas Public Health begs more questions than it answers.

    WAS IT A GRANT OR A LOAN?

    Was the $40,000 in question a community improvement grant or a loan? If it was a grant, who approved the grant and why would there be any expectation of repayment?

    TRANSIT TROUBLES

    As reported, the revenue shortfall for 2009 was $29,000 (almost as much as the salary increase mentioned above) and is projected to be $70,000 for 2010.
    What impact, if any, did the 4 recently purchased and defective buses from Leeds Transit have on the operating expenses for 2009 given they were off the road for a couple of months for repairs. Did the city seek and receive compensation for this, or is the decline in ridership taking the entire hit for the poor financial performance?
    Where is the full P&L for the transit commission?

    QUOTE FOR THE WEEK

    All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them. ~ Galileo

    Bill Sandison

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