City watchdog says administration costs too high in Victoria

Paul Brown offers councillors arguments for cutting costs to find budget savings

The City of Victoria spends too much on administrative costs, charges former mayoral candidate and city watchdog Paul Brown.

By Brown’s calculations, the city spends a lowball estimate of 13.9 per cent of its budget on administration.

“Generally, 10 per cent is the number you shoot for,” he said.

At a time when the city is looking to cut $4.3 million from its budget over the next three years, Brown’s message is that these cuts should be to administration, not city programs and services.

Salaries are not way out of line in Victoria, he said. The problem is the number of people earning more than $75,000 a year in salary and benefits, who are likely in management rather than in service delivery, he said. Management is always considered to be an administrative cost, he added.

Brown’s presentation of his findings to council on Thursday left Coun. Chris Coleman with some questions.

Coleman, who chairs the council committee responsible for the budget, agreed with the need to do analysis to ensure the city is getting good value for dollar. He questioned, however, some of Brown’s data.

“I don’t know if Paul’s numbers are right,” he said.

For instance, Coleman asked, who established 10 per cent as the benchmark for municipal administration costs? He also pointed out that a high salary doesn’t necessary indicate an employee is in a management position.

Of 227 employees receiving more than $75,000 a year, 70 per cent are unionized positions, Coleman said.

Brown qualified his own calculations. Using different models, his estimates of city administration range from 13.9 to 21 per cent. He admitted that none of his results are exact, due to a lack of detailed information, and all include assumptions.

Despite stating that 10 per cent is a standard administrative benchmark for many organizations – in the private, non-profit, and public sector – he couldn’t name any municipal governments which achieve better efficiency.

Still, Brown said, it’s time for Victoria to take a close look at its costs. He pointed to departments such as the sustainability department and the communications department.

“Council is going to have to give up some luxuries.”

rholmen@vicnews.com

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