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Job vacancies surpass 2,500 as city touts budget surplus

Job vacancies in the City of Toronto have hit 2,543 as the city touts a projected year-end $58.5 million budget surplus.

Most of the unfilled positions are in frontline public service delivery like the urban planning and engineering departments, Coun. Gord Perks told CityNews on Wednesday.

“It looks like a savings but it isn’t. If you have a restaurant and there’s nobody in the kitchen, that’s not a savings,” he said.

“These are services that, when we don’t have those people, the public gets less – and less than what we promised we would deliver.”

This is a higher-than-average number of vacancies, the city manager’s office confirmed.

Jackie DeSouza said the city’s annual turnover rate is usually around two to three and a half per cent. This year, it’s at five per cent.

“This increase in vacancies can be primarily attributed to the timing of hiring for vacant positions and seasonal fluctuations within the city’s workforce,” she said.

Budget chief Frank Di Giorgio said that while departments like planning are overworked, that workload will lesson by 2015.

For example, planning applications require lengthy studies, which require a lot of work. But those same studies can be used in future applications.

“There is an efficiency factor that kicks in over a period of time and in the planning department that is about to kick in,” he told CityNews.

“Otherwise, departments are not at liberty to hire new people this year,” Di Giorgio said.

The city’s estimated budget surplus for 2013 is $58.5 million but that could climb to as high $100 million, according to city staff.

Higher-than-expected revenue from Toronto Building and the land transfer tax contributed to the surplus.

Perks said that city council never direct city staff to save money by not filling jobs.

“We agreed on a number of people to meet the standards we wanted met, and we haven’t done it,” Perks said.

After a budget committee meeting on Tuesday, city manager Joe Pennachetti will prepare a report on job vacancies. The report will be presented on Oct. 2. Perks, who is not a member, introduced the motion through Coun. James Pasternak.

DeSouza said the city is hiring 10 additional human resources staff to assist in managing the hiring process.