Unused staff vacation days expected to cost City of Hamilton $1.83-million this year

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Unused vacation days by municipal employees are going to cost the City roughly $1.83-million this year.

The City of Hamilton saw a 37 per cent increase in unused vacation days, which have been carried over to 2021.

A significant uptick was expected due to COVID-19 restricting most travel and employees looking to get full value out of their vacation days.

Ahead of final budget deliberations, City Council received an overview on Wednesday (Mar. 24) of how the municipal finances and projects have been affected by COVID.

More than 22 per cent of City staff (approximately 1,800 people) continue to work from home due to the pandemic.

"Our employees have been extremely responsive to requests for redeployment, demonstrating their commitment to the ongoing effective delivery of our City services as well as ensuring that the vaccine clinics are run smoothly and efficiently, demonstrating their steadfast commitment to the health and safety of our community," said Lora Fontana, Executive Director of Human Resources.

COVID-19 caused a significant increase in City employees accessing wellness programs, including a 530 per cent increase in staff accessing mental health supports and a 244 per cent increase in staff seeking guidance in stress management.

The pandemic also resulted in a 2.3 per cent increase in overtime compared to 2019 for a total cost of $580,000. The City says, however, it is cost-recoverable thanks to the $160-million in pandemic support funding provided by the federal and provincial governments.

The deficit for the City of Hamilton was forecasted between $60 and $122-million for 2020. 

"Municipalities have taken extraordinary measures to support residents through the COVID-19 pandemic by providing essential services they count on,” said Mayor Fred Eisenberger.

“At the same time, we have experienced unprecedented declines in revenues. With support from our federal and provincial partners through a Safe Restart Agreement, which provides emergency funding needed to help us through this pandemic, we can now ensure the restart and recovery of our economy is safe and successful."

The City says it engaged in a number of proactive cost-saving measures to cushion the impact of the pandemic on the budget and mitigate its losses.

Among them, the City placed more than 1,300 part-time and casual staff on Declared Emergency Leave.

The City also saved $29-million by delaying capital projects and placed $1.1-million in a COVID capital reserve.

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