With ‘Budget 2015’ deliberations well underway, Council has already made some important decisions (*pending final budget approval) that will have a dramatic effect on the look and feel of our city. Our commitment to infrastructure investments will ensure that we don’t fall behind again and we stay (moderately) abreast of our growth pressures rather than continuing to play catch up. In the next few days, as we enter discussions around the 2015 Operating budget, Council now switches its focus to how the City does its work.
In my election campaign I challenged City administration to find 2% efficiency in its operations. Now that the operating budget is before us, it’s worth looking at how well they did. To date, $15 million in reductions were found across the board and in surprising areas – $500K in savings through improving DATS vehicle cleaning operations, $750K reductions in fleet service working capital, and even a reduction in my office expenses for things like postage and stationery to the tune of $14K. Of this $15 million in savings, $6.6 million found in policing and libraries has already been reallocated to support new police and library services with no tax levy impact. That leaves City Council with an additional $9 million to allocate.
City Administration also reported just under $12 million in estimated cost avoidance from positive changes, ranging from the city’s new electricity contract to bringing training in-house for peace officers [see page 36A-36L of the Operating Budget]
The goal remains to find efficiencies and drive innovation equal to 2% of the tax levy, which would be about $24 million a year. Taking into account the estimated cost avoidance, we’re off to a good start. I think city managers have been committed to positive changes that create better value, but now we’re asking them to measure and report on them for Council and the public to see.
As we go forward, further efficiencies will be found through a combination of process, people and technology.
I have long advocated for a full review of our transit operations, primarily to ensure that we are delivering this service as efficiently as possible and to find opportunities to further refine the way we serve transit riders across the city. Additionally, my push for a ‘one stop shop’ – both in its physical and philosophical form – is intended to improve communication between departments, remove unnecessary duplication of service and cut down on instances of lost or misplaced paperwork.
The City’s continuous improvement work, led by senior City staff, will undoubtedly prompt more innovation like the kind City employee Neil Ganske came up with last year that will save the city $120K. On the technology side, solutions like new training and fuel monitoring software helped City fleet services save $375K in fuel costs and the launch of our 311 App this past year (now with 11,000 downloads) now connects people to city services much more quickly and efficiently. Today we’re only scratching the surface for the ways in which technology can help us, and our Open City initiative contains a treasure trove of opportunities to improve the quality and efficiency of services we provide Edmontonians. I’ll keep working closely with our Corporate Services branch to bring new ideas forward through this initiative.
All of these efficiencies allow us to continue to direct resources – financial and human – into other areas that directly benefit our City. On Saturday we opened the Meadows Recreation Centre. This incredible centre contains not only fitness facilities, a gym, a pool, meeting and community spaces but also a fully integrated library. It’s the kind of building that contributes to the health and wellness of our community today and well into the future – but it was only possible by allocating funding, both capital and operating dollars, to bring it to life. Through our innovation and efficiency efforts, we’re able to invest in more city-building projects like the Meadows Recreation Centre and into the kind of infrastructure improvements that Edmontonians have been demanding.
Our discussions during the Operating budget this week will no doubt result in additional challenges to administration to find other areas of efficiency, all with the goal of ensuring your money is working as hard as it possibly can.