City departments outline cost-saving measures

There’s a whole lot of savings is going on behind the scenes at city-owned buildings.

There’s a whole lot of savings is going on behind the scenes at city-owned buildings.

Paul Goranson, director of the Corporate Services Division, outlined some of the cost-saving measures currently underway at city departments and buildings during the operating budget talks on Tuesday.

The disclosure of efficiencies and future cost-saving initiatives was part of the new budget guidelines set by council last year.

Goranson said finding efficiencies and streamlining processes is just the regular course of doing business at the city.

For example, this year the Electric Light and Power department reduced its capital budget by $2.7 million which avoided a five per cent electrical distribution rate increase.

Other examples included sharing staff and equipment, using recycled materials at events, and moving from leased truck units to city-owned units.

Goranson said he could not place a dollar value on the entire savings but he said the measures taken by staff will pay off financially in the long run and improve customer service immediately.

“The practice of reporting on what the organization does is something we have not done proactively before,” said Goranson. “There is certainly a lot of great staff from the front line to the highest level that are committed to … the city.”

Kristy Svoboda, Human Resources director, said there is the potential to recognize staff for their efforts as part of the annual staff awards.

Mayor Tara Veer wanted to stress that there are substantial cost savings happening behind the scenes that are not just subject to council debate.

“Often when council debates the cost savings portion of the budget, it affects service levels in a potentially detrimental way,” said Veer. “What happens behind the scenes is that staff is finding efficiencies which actually elevate our service to the public but do it in a more cost efficient and time efficient manner.”

Council is expected to debate a few items that are recommended and non-recommended by administration later this week. Some items are recommended by administration including reducing budgeted overtime ($10,000) and switching to Telus service ($10,000).

Other items not recommended include reducing preventive work on roads ($150,000) and reducing transit ($106,000).

Veer said the tax savings portion that council will debate is fairly marginal but the accumulative total of some of the initiatives identified by staff have the potential to amount in the millions of dollars over time.

“The sense from council today is that we need to quantify that even more so given the amount of public interest in this area,” said Veer.

Among the planned initiatives for 2015, Goranson said there is the potential for increased revenue through the new Fees and Charges policy and a review of the assessment review board fees and emergency medical co-response.