When 41% of municipal employees appearing on the so-called Sunshine List are members of one branch or service, it’s a surefire way to draw the attention – and the ire – of ratepayers who are on the hook.
That was the case in 2016 when 46 of the 113 municipal employees who earned in excess of $100,000 in 2016 were members of the St. Thomas Police Service. That’s a healthy bump up from 31 in 2015.
But every picture tells a story and it wasn’t a healthy amount of overtime or so-called duty pay that pushed those individuals over the $100,000 bar, stressed St. Thomas Police Chief Darryl Pinnell, it is the reality base salaries for first-class constables are already hovering around that benchmark.
Pinnell was also quick to point out the report presented to council Monday came in low on the actual number of employees involved.
“The number isn’t 43, it’s 46. I went through and physically counted.”
The base pay for a first-class constable is $93,500, advised Pinnell.
“As soon as you add on experience pay – and it goes in increments: 8-16 years, 17-22 years and 23-plus – then when you hit 17 years, the base salary is $99,000 and when you go over the 23-year mark it’s $101,000.
So, 22 members of the force made the Sunshine List in 2016 based on salary alone.
“That’s administration, staff-sergeants and sergeants,” advised Pinnell, “and those 23-year-plus constables. Before you even start, they are on the list.
And then you have 17 individuals who fall in the eight- to 16-year range, “And that’s $96,000 base salary and as soon as you add overtime and paid duty or anything extra, it doesn’t take much to get over that $100,000 mark,” said Pinnell.
“Five in that group of 17 are CIB (Criminal Investigation Branch) and one is the canine officer. So six of the 17 are in specialty units.And then “Then you’ve got five people in the 17- to 22-year range, which starts them at $99,000, so as soon as you start paid duty, a RIDE program or you add overtime or court duty, you’re easily into the $100,000 range.”
And then two people on the list were seconded to the Ontario Police College near Aylmer.
“They get paid a sergeant’s rate for being at the police college and that isn’t paid by us,” explained Pinnell. “So they’re on the list but they weren’t paid by us.”
A total of 19 of the 46 individuals on the list earned $105,000 or less, “So they are people just getting into that category, based on salary,” noted Pinnell.
And then again, added Pinnell, “some of the things that will put people over the $100.000 will be things the police service isn’t paying for. The RIDE programs are covered by ministry grants, doing things like working at intersections when changing out lights or any paid duty, although it’s listed as salary, the city isn’t paying for it. I don’t think those numbers are significant, but it will take some of those people and put them into that $100,000 category.”
So, what is paid duty?
“People sign up for that, whether it be a stag-and-doe, we do a lot of St. Thomas Energy work where they are switching out traffic signals and things like that, RIDE programs and school dances, although we don’t do much of that anymore. Paid duty is anything over and above a person’s scheduled shift. Although it will show up on their income, it is not being paid by the city.”
But it is not accurate to claim paid duty is a significant contributing factor in salary totals, stressed Pinnell.
“Most of the people are around the $100,000 mark anyway, so to say it’s paid duty that is responsible for that, that’s not true. Salaries are getting to the point where we’re right close to that line without doing anything.”
Likewise, overtime does not play as great a role as people may think, said Pinnell.
“We do our best when we have to fill in for sickness and absenteeism. We try to draw from other areas of the service. We are very mindful of the overtime budget and we try and do our best to mitigate that. If we get a homicide, it’s all hands on deck, that’s just the way it works. And we had one in 2016 so our overtime was over a little bit.
“We budget $120,000 and that’s for all overtime as well as court time. And I think we were within $20,000 of that, given the fact we had a homicide and we wrapped up a homocide, both in 2016. We thought that was pretty positive.”
Is it time to push the bar beyond the $100,000 mark, as has been suggested in many corners?
“People have talked about this for a number of years, the $100,000 mark might have been reflective of something 10 or 15 years ago, but I’m not so sure it’s as reflective today,” suggested Pinnell.