Auckland Council needs to find significant savings of $120 million, and fast, as the economic impact of Covid-19 gets bigger, according to a leaked email from chief executive Stephen Town.
The savings target comes as councillors meet behind closed doors tomorrow to consider the latest version of an "emergency budget" that includes proposals for an overall rates rise of 3.5 per cent alongside an alternative 2.5 per cent increase.
Rising costs for waste management and lowering rates for businesses could see rates tip the scales at 4.5 per cent for households and about 2.5 per cent for businesses under the 3.5 per cent option.
In the email to more than 12,000 full-time and part-time staff at council and its five council-controlled organisations(CCOs), Town says how incredibly proud he is of how staff have come together to respond to the challenges of the pandemic.
"Together we have shown Aucklanders the value we bring and the pride we take in supporting them during a crisis. From delivering food parcels to providing essential services and keeping our city running, we've really stepped up," he said.
Yesterday, Town announced in a media release staff who earn more than $100,000 will be asked to take a minimum pay cut as it tries to find savings after a dramatic cut in revenue over the past two months.
The voluntary pay cuts will only impact staff earning six figures and will be a tiered approach with the higher earners being asked to take a bigger cut.
There will be a 5 per cent reduction for anyone earning between $100,000 and $175,000, a 7.5 per cent reduction for anyone earning between $175,001 and $275,000 and a 10 per cent reduction for anyone earning above $275,001 for six months.
The 2019 annual report shows 2831 council and CCO staff earned more than $100,000 - a jump of 358 staff from 2473 the previous year.
Town also announced a comprehensive operating review with a view to begin implementing changes by August 1.
The memo fleshes out the media release, with Town saying the economic impact of Covid-19 is much bigger than when it first emerged with a dramatic fall in revenue and unexpected and unbudgeted costs associated with the response.
"All of this means that the entire council group has to make some difficult decisions to find significant savings over the next year and close the financial gap that has been created. Our share of the savings is $120 million.
"Even if we return to 'normal' tomorrow, the damage to the economy is considerable, and this will continue to have a profound effect on our income (rates and non-rates revenue) for several years to come," said Town.
He said reducing costs wherever possible - council has protected and paid all staff their full salaries during lockdown - have made a contribution but nowhere near the level of savings required.
Town said three difficult actions are under way, including voluntary pay cuts for staff earning more than $100,000, discussions with the PSA about this year's remuneration review and a review of the council's operating model.
"It is expected that this review will result in a reduction in permanent employees," said Town, noting staff are the largest cost for the council.
He said the size of the challenge means there is not a single solution and a range of solutions are needed.
"But I need you to be aware that we have to implement some changes by August 1, 2020 so that savings from these changes have a material impact for our next financial year.
"I know this will create uncertainty for you at a time which is already difficult - we are all trying to make sense of this new world we're in and what it means for us and our households," he said.