Yellowknife's City Hall. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio
The City of Yellowknife is trying to find a new director of corporate services, one of the most boring-sounding but important jobs at City Hall.
The director of corporate services runs the city’s financial side, including the likes of budgeting, taxation, procurement and responsibility for city technology like asset management software.
It’s a task that also requires lengthy, complex presentations to city councillors as a routine function, explaining things like how mill rates work and repeatedly hammering home that council has to balance its budget.
In a job ad for the position, the city said current director Sharolynn Woodward plans to retire “after a successful 25-year career with the city,” the last six years of which have been spent in her current role.
“We are now seeking a professional, highly skilled and experienced individual to bring their own new and creative approaches to municipal leadership, while honouring the incredible legacy of the incumbent,” the city stated.
Woodward was the main event at a Monday meeting of city councillors as she outlined how early work for next year’s budget is proceeding.
She warned councillors that “existing resources are stretched very thin” and various infrastructure projects are having to be deferred because of delivery delays and trouble finding people to do the work.
“There might have been some smugness this time last year, thinking, ‘Oh, we’re through Covid, this is over.’ We now know that the pandemic’s lasting legacy of increasing costs, high interest rates, unpredictable supply chains, and labour market challenges will be with us for a while,” Woodward said. “So Budget 2024 has to take these into consideration.”
Whoever succeeds Woodward as director of corporate services will have to deal with ever-increasing cost estimates for Yellowknife’s planned fire hall expansion and new drinking water intake pipe, among other projects, though the new $70-million aquatic centre “comes with a fixed price” and is not expected to increase in cost.
“Budget 2024 will introduce very little in the way of new projects, and it will present an adjusted schedule of previously recommended projects,” Woodward told council, offering a preview for her successor.
“It’s telling that of the 27 capital projects currently being contemplated for 2024, the primary drivers behind 21 of them are maintaining current service levels, regulatory compliance and risk reduction, with only four of them looking to increase service levels.
“Similarly, only three of those 27 projects reflect acquisitions – 22 of them are either renewal or operations and maintenance.”
The draft budget is due to be unveiled on November 6, with public presentations three weeks later. Those will be followed by council deliberations ahead of a finalized budget in mid-December.
“It’s very important for us to be able to be realistic about what it is that we’re capable of doing within the city,” said Sheila Bassi-Kellett, Yellowknife’s city manager, at the same meeting, “and realistic about the kind of tax burden that residents can handle.”
The city has hired a recruitment firm to find its new director of corporate services. The job ad calls for someone with more than 10 years’ experience at senior leadership level in the public sector and “comprehensive knowledge of municipal government accounting, finance, property taxation, procurement, and information technology.”