In 2019 the City of Nelson paid 26 of its 170 full-time employees more than $100,000 each, paid just over $1.5 million in contracts to Martech Electrical Systems, and gave $227,460 to Touchstones for its annual grant.
Those are just three examples of the detailed information contained in the city’s Statement of Financial Information for 2019. All municipalities and other public bodies such as colleges and hospitals are required by law to publish this report annually.
The full report can be found at https://www.nelson.ca/Archive.aspx?AMID=36 and is attached below.
The document includes a list of council and staff salaries as well as a list of all payments made for goods and services over $25,000.
Nelson’s chief financial officer Colin McClure says it’s about transparency.
“If you saw that we had spent $30,000 at Domino’s Pizza,” McClure told the Star, “you might be wondering, why are my taxes being spent on that?”
The report lists individual managers’ and council members’ salaries and the amount of their expenses.
“As a taxpayer, you can actually see what you’re paying for wages,” McClure said. “Otherwise the public might never get that information.”
The city’s vendor list
The report contains a list of the 123 vendors from whom the city made purchases over $25,000 in 2019. The city paid just under $7 million to Fortis BC, and more than $1 million to each of Martech Electrical Systems, Marwest Industries, McNally Excavating, the Municipal Finance Authority, the Municipal Pension Plan, and Terus Construction.
The total paid to all suppliers, including those under $25,000, was $32,745,000.
The full list shows that the city makes every attempt to buy local, McClure said.
“Your tax dollars go back into many of the companies that supply goods and services for us. … There is a lot of investment that comes back to the community. If you look at the list you will find that a lot of them are local companies.”
The SOFI report also contains complete audited financial statements for the year 2019, which show a surplus of $10,086,985 for 2019, and an accumulated surplus at the end of 2019 of $191,621,464.
McClure said surpluses get allocated to reserves that build up over time and are used when needed for such things as parks, infrastructure improvements, and equipment replacement.
“For example, we had more building permit revenue, so we put that into the development reserve, so that when if we have a situation where we get a downturn, we can draw on that.”
The statements show budgeted amounts and actual amounts for many categories of revenue and expenses, as well as details on cash flows, assets, debt, and other financial indicators.
Payments to city council and staff
In the interests of transparency, the SOFI report discloses the earnings of all employees earning over $75,000 per year, with the exception of the Nelson Police Department.
Mayor John Dooley was paid $62,230 plus expenses of $15,080 in 2019. Other councillors’ salaries plus expenses ranged between $30,500 and $39,000.
The highest paid employees at the city in 2019 were Nelson Hydro general manager Alex Love ($186,907 plus $6,276 in expenses), city manager Kevin Cormack ($185,491 plus $10,309 in expenses), hydro employee Dana Hamilton ($170,107), hydro employee Jordan Rothkop ($160,676), hydro employee Trevor Harding ($156,759), and chief financial officer Colin McClure ($155,008 plus $9,273 in expenses).
Of the 26 city employees paid more than $100,000 in 2019, five were from the Nelson Fire Department, six were from Nelson Hydro and the remaining 15 were senior staff from administration and public works.
There may also be employees of the Nelson Police Department who fit that category, but the numbers for the 27 employees of the Nelson Police Department and the employees of the Nelson Public Library are not included in the report and McClure said they are not available from the city.
The reason for this, according to city manager Kevin Cormack, is that the police and the library are run by separate boards of directors and as such are insulated by legislation from this level of reporting.
This despite the fact that the paycheques of police and library staff come directly from the city and are part of the city budget.
The city paid out a total of $11,645,058 in wages and benefits last year, not including the library or the police.
McClure said Nelson’s overall payroll reflects the fact that, unlike most cities of its size, Nelson has a professional fire department, its own police force, and its own power utility.
Grants to organizations
The report lists operating grants over $25,000 from the city to Touchstones Nelson, the Nelson Curling Club, the Regional District of Central Kootenay, Community Futures Central Kootenay, the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce, the Nelson and District Arts Council, and the Capitol Theatre, amounting to a total of $714,380.