City of Vernon. (File photo)

City of Vernon. (File photo)

New planning staff bumps up Vernon tax rate

Two new positions alleviate backlog, staff burnout

Vernon council looks to increase turnaround time in its planning department by adding two new staffers and extending another’s contract.

Coun. Akbal Mund brought the motion forward during the March 8 meeting of council underscoring its timeliness.

“We’re in a time of growth,” Mund said. “We need to act now.”

Mund called for the extension of the building and licensing manager’s contract for another year and the creation of two new current planner positions, which was approved by council.

While the new positions will increase the proposed tax rate from 2.13 per cent to 2.56, Mund says the revenue from the growth will pay for the two positions in as many years.

These new staff members would be dedicated to processing development applications, which would address much of the backlog Mund discussed.

“We recognize there is a shortage in our planning department and we always seem to be short-staffed,” Coun. Dalvir Nahal said in support of Mund’s motion. “Any position we fill will pay itself off. Construction creates jobs in this community and we should do whatever it takes.”

Not only would the positions help speed the processes for developers, Coun. Kari Gares said, it would ensure current staff is protected.

“Timing is of the essence,” she said. “We are cognizant of the burnout rate of our existing staff.”

By being short-staffed, Gares said, an extra burden is placed on current staff as they take on the workloads of those empty positions, which adds to the “perfect storm” of this market.

“Developers have excess cash they want to bring into communities and a shortage of staff makes it challenging for investment dollars to make it into our community,” Gares said.

The new positions would show council is “stepping up to the plate” to alleviate staff who have been “screaming in silence,” she said.

The two full-time positions would cost $280,000 with $100,000 coming from 2021 growth revenue and $180,000 from taxation. An additional $10,000 would be required in the first year for equipment and workstations, a report to council reads.

The one-year contract extension valued at $146,000 will be funded from the Development Excess Reserve.

City staff has come back with a report for council’s approval Monday, March 22.

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