Three manager positions axed from Nanaimo city hall

NANAIMO – Effort made to reach zero-per cent tax increase in four-month provisional budget.

There’s no longer a need for general management at city hall, according to interim city manager Tracy Samra, who plans to axe three positions this month.

Samra announced a plan Monday to save $816,000 a year by downsizing the senior leadership team at the City of Nanaimo by eliminating the remaining general manager positions.

It reflects the desire by Samra for a “flatter” organization where department directors and managers have the authority to lead, but it’s also part of an effort to reach a zero-per cent tax increase during a four-month provisional budget next year.

A staff report shows additions to the budget could have seen taxes rise by 1.9 per cent in 2016 before changes were made. There’s still room for the tax rate to change, however, after council completes a core review in March.

The move comes just weeks after the appointment of the interim CAO, amid the start of the city’s core review and a new communications protocol for media that restricts direct access to the mayor and acting mayor. This is the second change to the senior leadership team since 2013, when a reorganization saw seven high-level positions axed.

Samra said as city manager, it’s her responsibility to carry out the will of council, which said it wanted no increases in service or staffing levels during this interim period and wanted to reach a zero-per cent tax increase. She said this made sense to do now for cost savings in 2016 as it saves four months’ salary.

“It would have been different if these were all filled positions and we had three GMs, but essentially we have one,” Samra said.

A senior leadership team shares information through weekly briefings, which have empowered directors to step up to the plate, Samra said.

“I prefer a flatter organization where you have people that are the experts, which is really the director and managers of the department, having the authority to lead,” she said, adding she also wants 10 – not three – people sitting down and making decisions together.

Under the changes, one severance package will be negotiated.

The only position currently filled is by Tom Hickey, general manager of community services, who has been with the municipality 17 years. His position will be eliminated at the end of December. Toby Seward has been both acting general manager of community development and protective services, and director of protective and social services. He’s now senior director of the section. Ian Howat, formerly general manager of corporate services, resigned in November.

Samra also froze the manager of parking services position.

Mayor Bill McKay was reached for comment, but said he was not permitted to comment on the subject.

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