[dropcap]O[/dropcap]n the surface it may sound boring, but the city of Hamilton is undertaking an innovative process that assesses the various services the city provides and asks key questions:
- Do we still need it?
- Has anything changed
- Is the business case that led to instituting the service still valid.
- At that point depending ongthe answers, it’s possible the service will be discontinued.
The process is being led by City Manager Chris Murray who explains why the review is needed. We’re here to earn the trust and confidence of our citizens and businesses. With that in mind I think it’s important for taxpayers to know the services they receive for the money they sp
end and whether or not we’re meeting expectations. The service delivery review helps us distinguish between what we need to deliver and what is discretionary. It shows what we’re doing right and what needs improvement. It also examines and is intended to ensure we align our business plans with our budget process.”
If the service survives the initial phase then the study team will determine whether the city is providing the appropriate level of service, and a further question will be—is there a better way of providing this service?
Using this filtering process the city developed a list of 30 opportunities to reduce, cut costs or just provide the service more efficiently. This is winnowed down to a top ten list. Examples from both lists include:
- Vehicles, instead of laying out cash, purchase them on credit and charge the amount back to the departments using the vehicles. This can eliminate the current vehicle reserve fund which can be used to pay down debt.
- Outsource food preparation at city recreation centres and golf courses.
- Match our existing firefighting resources with the city’s actual risk profile. Fire services have not been reviewed since amalgamation.
- Increase parking fees. Hamilton has notoriously cheap parking compared to other GTA jurisdictions.
- Make the city fleet service department compete with private fleet repair.
- Increase recreation fees. An adult can swim every day at a local pool for 40 cents a visit.
- Establish priority lanes for buses.
- Decrease employee absenteeism. The Bay Observer recited cited a city report that said hardcore absentees suck up the equivalent of 277 person years of employment.
- Sell off a city owned golf course
One area that needs urgent attention is the development of a strategic workforce plan that recognizes that staffing costs are still the number one costs to taxpayers. When the city of Hamilton amalgamated with the 6 suburban communities, there was a combined workforce of over 6,000. Amalgamation reduced the staff count by over 1000 positions but by 2011 it had crept back up to roughly 6,250 person-years of employment. This situation has been exacerbated by the size of the wage increases staff have received over the past decade which has exceeded inflation by a factor of almost 3 to 1 (59% wage increase compared to 20% inflation increase 2002-2011).