Over the summer, both the Town and the County surveyed citizens and asked them what they thought of their services and their cost. Unfortunately, participation was poor. The County’s survey was from July 10 to 31 and they got 54 responses; the Town’s started on August 10 and when KPMG reported to Council on August 24, they said there were only 122 responses as of August 18. The Town’s survey was supposed to finish on Aug 24 but as of August 27 it was still active. One reason for the municipalities to ask for input is that the pandemic will put a big strain on budgets so maybe services should be cut or should taxes get a big hike? Although the surveys were separate and will be evaluated separately, this report covers both.
Although the County had few responses, the ones they did get were mostly similar to answers in the previous year when there were 374 responses so the 54 were taken as valid. The Cobourg survey used consultant KPMG and they will be providing a final report in October which will also (hopefully) include recommendations on possible efficiencies.
Here is a brief summary of key County questions with some charts.
Q. How familiar are you with what the County does versus the Town?
A. 72% Somewhat familiar
Q. Of the County Services, which are most important?
A. Paramedics, infrastructure (roads and bridges), Managing tax dollars and financial reporting, Garbage collection and management
Q. Which County services are least important?
A. Community archives/museum programming, Small business supports, County Forest recreation and conservation.
Q. How satisfied are you with how these County-provided services/programs are currently being delivered in our community?
Q. What are the most important Issues?
Q. Given the Covid-19 impacts, Council asked staff for a 0% tax increase. What options would you prefer?
Q. How much should taxes change?
Cobourg – Initial Findings
Summary of findings by KPMG as presented by Oscar Poloni.
- There appears to be little to no interest on the part of Council for outright service reductions
- Operating efficiencies and customer service enhancements are the priority objectives of the review (It’s called a Service Sustainability Review)
- In comparison to the selected peer municipalities, residential taxes in Cobourg are towards the upper end of the range both in terms of absolute dollar value and as a percentage of average household income. The difference reflects lower income levels in Cobourg, fixed cost of delivering certain services and differences in service levels
- The Town’s cost to deliver “core” municipal services is generally consistent with the selected peer municipalities
- Certain discretionary services have a limited effect on the municipal levy – the Marina is break even, the campground contributes to the Town, More than 50% of the cost of the CCC comes from user fees so its portion of levy is limited.
To be fair, the County survey was focused on how to achieve a zero tax levy increase but Cobourg’s was focused on what efficiencies could be achieved.
- Mandatory: A legislative or regulatory requirement e.g. a Treasurer and Clerk.
- Essential: Not mandatory but is essential for preservation of property or public health. e.g. a C.A.O., water and waste water management
- Traditional: Not mandatory or essential – e.g. Parks and Recreation, an Arena, cultural programs, physician recruitment
- Discretionary: e.g. Affordable Housing, Criminal background checks by police
Note that the amounts are based on the 2020 budget, not actuals.
The survey asked if people thought the right amount of money was being spent. Here’s what the 122 people said:
Note that the Town survey numbers may change when there are more responses and it should be interesting to see if KPMG finds any costs that can be reduced.
Note: As of 28 August, the Town’s survey is still open at Engage Cobourg.