City motoring forward on cost savings recommendations

·3 min read

More than 20 per cent of changes the city identified to help save money through the Ernst & Young operational and fiscal review have been completed, according to a city report card on the issue.

In July, St. Albert City Council got a look at the projects that are underway to help the city save cash, and some nine out of 42 projects have been completed and another 18 are underway. The city initially received the fiscal review in its entirety in May 2021.

Coun. We Brodhead said the report is important to keep track of what the city is doing.

“If you don't measure, you never know where you're going,” Brodhead said.

Coun. Ken MacKay said the report is part of options the city is exploring to help save money and find efficiencies within the city.

However, Brodhead said unless they act on the recommendations being given to them in the report, they aren’t saving any money.

“You can say things in a report and make recommendations but there still has to be decisions against those recommendations,” Brodhead said.

“They’re only as good as the paper it’s written on until there’s a motion in council that gets passed or action is taken.”

So far the city has tackled some items that will save money in the long term, such as modernizing where staff works. The city didn’t renew leases on existing professional buildings, and instead rely on hybrid models of work or allowed staff to work from home. The change has resulted in $300,000 of savings so far, and is expected to save the city $594,000 to $1.19 million over five years.

Attracting new businesses to the city will also help increase revenue through expanding the non-residential tax base. According to the report, there has been some significant progress in doubling non-residential assessment growth compared to residential growth over the last five years.

In the last year Duraline’s western Canada manufacturing facility has opened in town along with OK Tire’s distribution centre, resulting in an investment in the city of over $25 million.

From 2017 to 2021, the city’s non-residential growth outpaced residential by more than double, averaging 4.19 per cent in non-residential growth compared to 1.82 per cent in residential growth. Additionally, one third of St. Albert's industrial inventory has been added in the last five years, according to the report.

“My hope is we will be able to get Lakeview Business District up and running," Brodhead said. "That’s not going to happen until 2023, but it will certainly set up future councils if we can address the tax split even more."

One of the 18 cost-saving opportunities in progress is evaluating the way the library delivers services. In the 2022 budget, the library was given $100,000 to be audited by an independent consultant and the report is expected to be presented to the library board in September 2022. The report will help guide council on how they can save costs with the library.

The city is also currently looking into finding new partnerships and sponsorships for recreation facilities, looking at regional partnerships for service delivery, centralizing communications and marketing in the city, and outsourcing some public works services to help save money for St. Albertans.

Outsourcing 911 fire dispatch is also being considered to save money, and in July council voted to send out a request for proposals to see what options may be available for fire dispatch delivery outside of the city.

Some 15 items are still in consideration for the future, although the city has not started to implement them, including an organizational structure review, automating the city’s accounts payable and records management processes, and transitioning some roles from the RCMP to municipal enforcement.

Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Albert Gazette

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