Tauranga City Councillors are demanding answers as to why staff costs have rocketed 80 per cent in the past nine years to reach nearly $39 million.
The $17.2 million increase will be compared to growth in New Zealand's official labour cost index, with the reasons driving the difference to be reported back to the council by June 20.
An explanation for the growth in costs was sought at the same time as the council this week approved adding another $1.4 million to staff costs next year, representing about 18 new jobs. The staff top-ups followed last year's restructuring announcement which disestablished 52 jobs and created 54 jobs. Eighteen months earlier, major changes cleaned out nearly all the top-tier managers. The new jobs and the need to match market salaries will go out for public consultation as part of the council's draft long-term plan.
A report by the council's human resources manager and a human resources consultant originally sought an increase of $1.7 million next year, but this was cut by $300,000 at this week's meeting.
Councillor Gail McIntosh, who helped drive the savings, said after the meeting that $200,000 came off the original $400,000 to employ four people to pursue opportunities with council's strategic partners such as Priority One and Tourism Bay of Plenty. The other $100,000 came off plans to improve compliance with swimming pool fencing rules.
It has left the council proposing to boost full-time staff numbers by about 18 next year. One priority was project management to assess and implement solutions to water tightness and seismic problems with the Civic Centre, including Project Clean to tackle issues associated with the discovery of toxic mould.
Cr McIntosh said the council had intended to get a lot more proactive on the issue of inspecting pool fences. "I said the legislation has been around for 25 years, put a bit more money in, but not all of that."
She said it was about the Government putting more and more onus for health and safety on to ratepayers.
Another issue was the ability to attract and retain good staff, particularly in the building inspection, engineering and information technology areas.
"Building inspectors have been in great demand since the Christchurch earthquake ... technical people are hard to get."
Four of the proposed new jobs were linked to managing growth and the Government's drive to boost housing supplies by fast-tracking the opening up of new development areas. Three jobs were to boost safety at public swimming pools. Most of the increase was driven by what the council termed "standard business requirements".
This included environmental and bylaws compliance, property management and land sales, managing the city's roads, improving CCTV monitoring, communications, the Te Maunga sewage treatment plant, and specialist advice on resource consent applications.