Chamber calls for a Strategic Approach to City Budget

Business, Finance, Sarnia — By on November 23, 2011 at 11:54 am

The Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce congratulates City Council on its leadership in service delivery discussions, attention to fiscal management and control. As well as the diligent review of the current budget and capital budget each year lowering expense to or slightly below the rate of inflation.

“We applaud the City’s efforts on the budget but it is necessary for City Council to take a more strategic approach in lowering future costs to stimulate growth in our community” stated Chamber President Garry McDonald at his presentation to Council Monday night.

Where will needed City tax revenues come from in the future?

Many Chamber members believe services must be provided at less cost to the taxpayer and governments are expected to do so while not raising taxes. It has been noted that there will be less senior level government funding in the coming years and that local population growth is less than buoyant with fixed income earners are increasing in number. Municipal revenue streams are slowing amid a continued need for public services.

Lowering the cost of services will have profound positive long-term future benefits. Such will decrease the cost of doing business in Sarnia, encouraging growth in existing businesses and also enabling us to attract new business and industry.

Gary McDonald said “Lowering cost is not about increasing profit margins for business, but increasing prospects for growth. This will be a net benefit for Sarnia in the long run.”

Costs

A) Is there local and regional duplication that only Council has the power to investigate and resolve? The City must continue to find partnerships with Sarnia’s Lambton neighbours and other public sector organizations.

B) Does the City have a staff succession and attrition plan that provides a proactive forecast of future expenses? Without a future looking plan the City will experience an annual inflationary increase (or more) to the present employee salary budget line.

Recommendations

To have a base that will improve prospects for growth, Council must commit now to:

1. Adopt new strategies or offerings for staff expenses such as health and retirement benefits, and corporate insurances to provide a more consistent annual budget expense.

2. Re-open and update your 6 year old core service review and include a more regional perspective of service delivery and identify a core staff number.

3. Research and report on what amount of staff attrition may occur in the near future. Continue to replace or add staff only where strategically important.

4. Establish an annual salary line increase target, such that strategic forced attrition may be necessary. Perhaps the rate of new annual assessment growth would be a fair target each year. The City must become proactive.

5. Continue to demonstrate service delivery sharing leadership with local governments, other public sector organizations or private sector to provide public services at a lower cost. Open discussions on the Big items too, like the Colborne Road fire hall, that may take 3 or 4 years to finalize.

6. Target an annual current budget increase during the balance of the elected term of office not to exceed the forecast assessment growth. (This year this would be 0.5% according to Mr. Brian McKay.)

7. Continue working with SLEP and TSL and other agencies to support economic renewal of our community.

8. Continue to introduce new strategic approaches to budgeting as was done this year with a 10 year capital plan and new project selection system.

The Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce believes to achieve profound improvements in strategic growth that lower public services cost would create, Council must find the balance between- maintaining services- sharing service delivery cost- lowering staffing cost.

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