Fewer staff, contract positions help keep line on spending
The Hamilton Conservation Authority will freeze its levy request to the city at $3.57 million for the fourth year in a row by not filling two senior staff vacancies and using fewer contract employees.
Chief administrative officer Chris Firth-Eagland said he’d be surprised if the public notices any difference because the authority is tailoring staffing and projects to its funding.
This year’s overall budget is $10.9 million, with other major financial contributors including park revenues, planning fees, management fees for running city-owned Confederation Park and Westfield Heritage Village, and government grants.
Firth-Eagland said at least eight contract positions tied to specific initiatives, like the Nature Counts inventory ofHamilton’s natural areas, will lapse with their funding sources by the end of the year.
The two “key” unfilled senior positions are in marketing, and watershed planning and engineering regulations, he said.
“We’re looking at many different strategies for our workforce to adapt to these conditions and provide amazing service – different kinds of work teams, different kinds of work programs,” Firth-Eagland said.
“Some of our big initiatives are to do more work in-house ourselves, so it means changing even what some of our employees work on,” he said.
“I believe it’s healthy for organizations to go through these things from time to time. Certainly, four years in a row is getting pretty tough, though.”
As with last year, the authority is requesting $2 million in capital funding from the city for new projects and maintenance.
Some key projects include $95,000 to stabilize the Hermitage ruins in Ancaster, $90,000 to expand the campground at Valens, $125,000 for water and sewer upgrades at Fifty Point, and $60,000 for parking and access improvements at Webster’s Falls.
The authority has budgeted $40,000 to make improvements to Maplewood Hall in Ancaster should directors approve a contentious proposal to lease the former outdoor education centre to a private school.
It will also spend nearly $60,000 to remove and replace trees killed by the emerald ash borer as well as deal with the fallout from severe weather.
“We have to have money so we can keep trails clear and safe for our visitors,” treasurer Neil McDougall said in an Oct. 3 presentation to authority directors.
“With climate change, the intensity of storms, our trees are getting knocked around. As a result of that, there will be more hazardous trees and hazardous situations.”
McDougall said savings from not filling vacant positions will allow employees to receive a 1.5 per cent cost of living increase this year, with full-time staff getting a further average merit raise of one per cent.