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RMOW remunerations increased 12.8 per cent from 2007 to 2008

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The price of municipal workers is on the rise.

The total amount of cash Whistler's municipal government shelled out for employees jumped 12.8 per cent between 2007 and 2008, based on numbers taken from the municipality's Statements of Financial Information, which were released in June.

In other words, the municipality's human resource department spent $17.5 million on employees in 2007, compared to $19.7 million in 2008.

But not all individual wages went up by the 12.8 per cent figure.

The numbers found in the latest financial documents are "remunerations," not salaries, explained Anna Armistead from the municipality's finance department. They are the amount of money paid to employees during a calendar year, including costs like retro-pay, vacation pay and pensions.

"This isn't cash in your pocket," stressed Armistead.

Denise Wood, manager of the municipality's human resources, said individual wages only went up three per cent for both the 2007 and 2008 years.

"Basically, the increase in 2007 was three per cent, and in 2008 we had to pay that retroactively," said Wood. "Then, on Jan. 1, 2008, there was another increase of 3 per cent. That wasn't paid until approximately the end of February."

Municipal employees received another 3.5 per cent increase this year; and four per cent raises are already on the books for 2010 and 2011.

While the total amount of money that Whistler's municipality spent on wages last year went up, individual salaries are not out-of-line with other local governments in the province.

Most of Whistler's employees are non-unionized, and their wages are averaged against equivalent positions in six municipalities in the Lower Mainland: District of North Vancouver, City of North Vancouver, City of New Westminster, Corporation District of Delta, District of West Vancouver and District of Coquitlam.

The jump in wages might also be because several employees stepped up to a new "pay band," added Armistead.

For each year's worth of work, a municipal employee can advance to a new pay scale, which is usually four per cent higher than their current salary. Each job has five pay bands in total.

This trend of more employees on higher pay bands is echoed in the financial statements, which reveal that the number of people earning over $100,000 in remuneration at municipal hall rose from 15 in 2007 to 20 in 2008.

Meanwhile, the number of full time equivalent employees reporting to the municipality dropped during the same two-year period.

About 238 full-time equivalents worked for the Resort Municipality of Whistler in 2007 compared to 235 people last year. The number dipped further this year, to 230 people.

Every municipality is required to file a yearly Statement of Financial Information with the province. Copies of the documents are also available to the public upon request at municipal hall.

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