It likely comes as no surprise that taxes are a regular topic of discussion with residents. It is also a regular topic of discussion at City Council. The challenge is finding the balance between providing the necessary services for a growing city while trying to minimize the tax dollars required.
Although our Administration looks for inefficiencies every year (please refer to pages 11-34 of this link) looking for additional efficiencies is important. Last year I put forward a motion to have a detailed analysis of our overtime costs. The report that came back was thorough and showed that overtime is used quite sparingly. As we approach our supplementary operating budget process, I started looking for different opportunities for savings. During our last operating budget update, the amount of staff vacancies was raised and I felt a detailed analysis of those vacancies was required. Therefore, at the September 20th, 2016 Council meeting I made the following motion:
That Administration provide a report to Council as part of the 2017 Supplementary Operating Budget Process on the following:
- A breakdown of the 2015, March 2016 and June 2016 permanent position vacancy rate for the following areas:
- Development Services (formerly Current Planning)
- Civic Tax Levy operation
- An analysis of current vacancies including their status
- A review of the feasibility of deleting some of the vacancies and/or increasing the personal discount rate in order to identify cost savings.
I learned that the City has approximately 127 staff vacancies that have been open for six months or longer. The purpose of the motion is to provide Council with a proper analysis of our vacancies. The City is going through a reorganization so there are likely some positions that have been held open while this transition occurs. With that said, I would like to believe that some vacancies can be deleted and/or discounted to help reduce costs. People often talk about the tough economic times and the need to receive value for our taxes. It’s easy to talk about reducing spending but far more challenging to actually look for opportunities to save money. While I am unsure how much this could impact our tax levy, I believe it’s worth a review.
Part of what I campaigned on three years ago was fiscal responsibility. I realize it’s a phrase many use so I felt it was important to share one of the ways of how I’m trying to walk the talk. This report will provide us with possible opportunities for savings while we work through the larger program and service level review that was discussed during the 2016-18 budget deliberations. This program and service level review is a thorough review of every business and program area in the City. For more information about this review, the motion above or ways to create value for taxes, please contact me.