Pay package for city manager is almost $300,000 - before taxes.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

March 27th, 2018



What we pay our civil servants and what they deliver in the way of service and leadership is of concern to every taxpayer.

The public has direct input on who serves as members of Council – they get to bring in new people or turf those that have not met the standard the public expected. Public service can at time be brutal.

Council cannot get rid of a Staff member. They can go into a closed session and discuss concerns they have with a staff member and they could direct a city manager to get rid of a staff member because city managers serve at the will of Council

Burlington has asked one city manager to look for another place to work – which usually means buying out he contract they have with the city.

Burlington has gone thought Roman Martiuk , Jeff Fielding and Pat Moyle who was an interim city manager – holding the fort until a permanent city manager is hired.

James Ridge became city manager in 2015

Jeff Fielding was an exceptional city manager but he got an opportunity to serve in Calgary with one of the best Mayor’s in the country and he took it.

Roman Martiuk was brought in to get costs under control.  He and Mayor Goldring didn’t see things the same way.  At the time the Mayor told the Gazette that the decision to par ways was for the most part his alone.  At the time many thought that his then Chief of Staff, Frank McKeown, was the man behind that decision.

Burlington was at one point very fortunate to be able to pull a city manager from the ranks of staff. Tim Dobbie served as city manager while Rob MacIsaac was Mayor – those two were almost a wrestling tag team. They worked together very effectively.

Cam Jackson: Election night 2010

Cam Jackson: Election night 2010

When MacIsaac moved on Cam Jackson, a former MPP, ran for Mayor and Dobbie decided the grass was indeed greener in that other field. He now works as a much in demand consultant to other municipalities.

When a city manager is hired the amount he or she is paid is negotiated.

If you're happy and you know it - clap your hands.

If you’re happy and you know it – clap your hands.

The province of Ontario, when Bob Ray was Premier, decided they would publish a report annually setting out how much every civil servant in the province early more than $100,000 annual gets paid. It was quickly names the Sunshine list and became must reading.

The Gazette has in the past published portions of the report. Downloading the data and formatting it for publication is a time consuming task – it is one that we have decided to do during the Easter Break. There are numerous levels: City, Regional, Education and the Health Sector.

During a meeting with a regular reader earlier this week I was asked when we were going to publish the 2018 numbers and I said during the Easter Break. “You might want to do it sooner the reader suggested, there are some eye popping numbers” he said.

Ridge and Chris Murray - city managers

James Ridge with Hamilton city manager Chris Murray

come close to taking home three hundred big ones?” “Really” I responded. (In the parlance of people in those income range three hundred big one is three hundred one thousand dollar bills – before taxes of course.

It gets better the reader advised: on a value based scale, that is how much it costs each citizen,  we pay our city manager far more than other cities. He put something together for us.

Here is what we were given. We checked to ensure that the gross number for James Ridge was correct.

Eye popping indeed.

City manager pay scales

Does the amount paid to the city manager in the last fiscal year include something other than just salary?



Burlington pays it’s city manager more than the city manager of Hamilton when Hamilton has more than three times the population of Burlington.

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14 comments to Pay package for city manager is almost $300,000 – before taxes.

  • Bruce

    Hamilton has four “deputy City managers” although they are called General Managers

  • Bruce

    A couple of important facts:

    – sunshine list numbers do not always represent the 12 month pay rate – so James Ridge 2015 number is for 8 or 9 months only. Also comparing cities isn’t accurate if the current incumbents didn’t have the role on January 1, 2017.

    – municipal pensions (OMERS) are matched are funded 1:1 by the employee and the municipality. The municipality has no cost after the employee retires.

  • Penny

    Don’t forget it is Council who hires and ultimately can fire the City Manager. Is it Council that decides on the salary increases? What criteria is used for the increase?

  • Stephen White

    A comparison of City Manager or CAO compensation levels with other municipalities across Ontario reveals some interesting results:

    – London = $237K
    – Vaughan = $285K
    – Ottawa = $342K
    – Hamilton = $264K
    – Toronto = $350K
    – St. Catharines = $142K
    – Sarnia = $183K
    – Waterloo =- $203K
    – Guelph = $267K
    – Markham = $271K
    – Brantford = $221K
    – Niagara Falls = $209K
    – Oakville = $245K

    The logical comparators in the above listing based on population would likely be St. Catharines, Oakville, Guelph and Waterloo, all of which are lower than Burlington. The fact that City Managers’ salaries in places like London and Hamilton with substantially larger populations are also noticeably lower begs the question: why? Moreover, a salary increase of $34K in one year for the City Manager (i.e. 13%), is unbelievable bordering on excessive. When you put this alongside the fact that there will be a 4.36% increase in the city’s portion of property taxes, about double the rate of inflation, it’s hard not to get the impression that there is something seriously out of whack at City Hall.

    More than anything this clearly highlights the fact that public sector reform needs to be made an election issue this year. Not only is a full organizational review of City Hall’s operations required but there needs to be some serious benchmarking with other municipalities around complement levels, organizational structure and compensation levels.

    • Phillip

      Excellent analysis, Stephen. You raise a very valuable direction that City Hall needs to take in your last paragraph. Overall, my major concern is that this salary issue is yet another instance of where fiscal management in Burlington seems to be lacking. It is far to easy to go to the taxpayers with yet another tax increase that is more than double the rate of inflation–this must end!

  • Judy

    For someone who has divided the city it seems like too much. Can’t wait for the election.

  • Tom Muir

    You left out our Deputy City Manager – Mary Lou Tanner. I think you reported recently that she earns $260 to $270,000.

    Mary Lou is replaced temporarily by a Bill Janssen, so there is no slippage savings here.

    It will be interesting to see the number of Senior-Level-Staff, with former Director level salaries, compared to before Mr. Ridge chose not to replace them when he was getting his team together.

    Are these positions empty saving money? Or have the ranks filled with different folks in basically identical well paid functions?

    Just curious really.

  • William

    But if we measure what Ridge is compensated in terms of what he delivers – we’re paying only $10,878 for every high-rise tower he’s planning for in the downtown. That doesn’t include the towers housing 27,000 people in Aldershot, 20,000 by the Burlington Go Station and 22,000 at Appelby; they’re the icing on the cake.

    • Hans

      Maybe Ridge can put that on his resume: “increased Burlington’s population by xxx high-rise towers”?

      The proponents of high population density are apparently unaware of John B. Calhoun’s work on the subject.

      Giving it a silly name, like “intensification”, doesn’t change the results.

  • Ken

    I’m not even all that upset about the $294K in compensation. Although it hardly has me smiling. What is gobsmacking is the increase in 2015 ($197K) to 2016 ($260K) to $294 in 2017. At this rate of increase we should all be living in fear of what the next two years of increases will bring.

    “Stop the insanity….”

    • Rob

      Good background search Ken. You’re absolutely correct. The increase of 50% can’t be justified. I may be wrong, however, I doubt Mr. Ridge’s responsibilities have increased in proportion to his pay.

      Thinking longer term, what will this do to his pension? I think the City / Region pensioners, including police and firefighters get back way more than they put in. That money comes from every tax dollar Burlington and Halton residents pay, for a long time to come.

      If anyone has details on City / Region pension paybacks, they would be enlightening. I know MP’s put in for every $1 MPs put towards their pension, we, the taxpayers, put in $23. … Huffington Post,

      Gold and Silver plated pension plans are great if you have them, but not on the backs of taxpayers. If they’re good for our civil servants, they should be good for everyone.

  • Penny

    Do all Municipalities also have a Deputy City Manager and pay them $279,000.00? James Ridge earns close to $294,000.00 and now we have to add $279,000.00 for a Deputy City Manager. Did Burlington always have a Deputy City Manager?

    • Evie

      Great point ,complete waste of money for a City this size . HR and council should review Mr Ridge ,perhaps he cant handle the workload

  • Hans

    I’m not suggesting that Ridge’s pay is appropriate; however, determining reasonable compensation is not as simple as comparing population size. There are job evaluation systems (e.g. the Hay system) that facilitate more valid comparison.

    A useful criterion might be: “is there any value added by having this person in the job?”. And “does he add more value than he costs?”.