Improving Town’s Efficiency

As promised, CAO Tracey Vaughan has now issued a report on what actions the Town should be taking to implement the recent report by KPMG on how the Town could save money.  Tracey’s report is included in the agenda for the next Committee of the Whole meeting on January 25.  First she says that KPMG notes that two-thirds of the Town’s operating costs and 71% of the municipal levy requirement relate to services that are considered to be either mandatory or essential in nature. While discretionary services account for $6.9 million in annual taxation revenue, $6.6 million of that amount are discretionary services that are traditionally delivered by municipalities of similar size.  She accepts that Councillors do not want to actually reduce service levels so she focuses primarily on finding efficiencies.

As well as direct cost-saving initiatives, there will also be an “Organization review” in 2021 to see if the necessary skills exist within the organization, to ensure that staff are working efficiently and to determine if the organizational structure is appropriate to achieve the goals set out in the current Strategic Plan (subject of a future Post).


Tracey Vaughan
Tracey Vaughan

See her full report via the links below but here are some highlights:

  • Consider a reduction in spending for certain recreational and cultural programs.  Options to be presented to Council concerning current recreation, culture and tourism programming.
  • Reconsider the provision of transit services in light of current service levels, lower than average utilization, higher than average levels of taxation support.  Staff are looking at On-Demand service, buying smaller buses and reviewing the fee structure.  See previous article on Micro-Transit.
  • Consider discontinuing the Town’s involvement in the Joint Animal Control Services Board.  Notice has already been given to exit at the end of 2021.  Brent Larmer will report on the next steps early in 2021
  • Consider redirecting funding of business attraction from the County to the Town’s economic development function.
  • Consider increasing user fees:
    • Increase Planning fees so that costs covered increase from 27% to 50%.  Some of this is included in the 2021 budget.
    • Increase Marina and Campground Fees to cover future Capital costs
    • Add a storm water management fee
    • Improve collection of Parking fees and increase revenue (e.g. Pay and display and possible parking fee increases)
    • Increase user fees each year to cover inflation
    • Charge for booking cancellations.

If a User Fee Study is approved in the 2021 budget, Finance plans to issue an RFP in the first quarter of this year.

  • Enhance operating efficiencies and customer service experience; implement strategies to reduce the use of paper documentation.
  • Delegate approval authority for site plan applications to staff
  • Implement changes to the Town’s financial processes to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of
    • Transaction processing – e.g. provide the option of emailing property tax bills to homeowners
    • Financial reporting;
    • Accounts receivable monitoring
  • Consider the establishment of a centralized procurement function that would be responsible for
    • Standardizing procurement approaches and documents
    • Managing contract documentation
    • Performing data analytics on municipal spending
    • Incorporating best practices from other municipalities
  • Enhance performance Measurement

Subject to endorsement by Council, Tracey says that Directors in each Division will implement the actions in her report.  Further, she says that “Reports regarding the implementation of the recommendations will be brought forward to Council beginning June 2021.”

At the Committee of the Whole meeting on January 25, Council will be asked to endorse this report.

It looks like CAO Tracey Vaughan is leading with plans to make the Town’s bureaucracy more efficient.  Let’s hope Council is fully supportive although we won’t find out specifics until June when the first implementation recommendations are brought before Council.


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Ken Strauss
19 January 2021 6:15 pm

If a User Fee Study is approved in the 2021 budget, Finance plans to issue an RFP in the first quarter of this year.

The report seems generally reasonable but do we need to hire yet another consultant to set user fees?

Last edited 1 year ago by Ken Strauss
Reply to  Ken Strauss
19 January 2021 7:23 pm

Ken guess you were wrong on another subject Blog when you said people will face much higher taxes – taxes are only increasing to pace of inflation but anyone who wishes to participate in anything will be hit with increased user fees. Probably have to pay for a drink at a public water fountain and public washrooms will have pay slots – the new display ones?

Last edited 1 year ago by Liz
Ken Strauss
Reply to  Liz
19 January 2021 8:32 pm

I don’t know which blog post you mean but I’ll stick with a forecast of higher taxes. User fees better reflect what each of us actually uses but they are really just taxes by a different name. Did you notice a property tax reduction when Cobourg added parking meters to our downtown?

How does the linked article relate to taxes since it doesn’t even mention the word?

Reply to  Ken Strauss
19 January 2021 10:12 pm

Clearly it displays a trend in society. The growing gap in between rich and poor and ability to support programs, buy decent food as food bank usage grows for even the average working family who often have two children – both in the same bedroom despite being of different sex as they can’t afford more, working parents with one child in a one bedroom as that is all they can afford.. The recommended 30% paid for rent becoming an obsolete formula. User Fees will be another chunk from already pressed budgets. Perhaps the formula is lopsided. Perhaps it is time to examine the largest ticket – wages, benefits to government workers where the tax dollars go not programs. The contract is on line for anyone who wishes to look. The old expression “I’m comfortable how about you?”
Edit – 11:52 – As a past payroll administrator I could well understand why people said to me getting a municipal government job was akin to winning the lottery. This pay aspect ok with you well enjoy your user fees.

Last edited 1 year ago by Liz
Reply to  Liz
20 January 2021 8:30 am

pay for public washrooms? like the old days? here i sit broken hearted, payed an nickle & only farted!

Reply to  geeengrass
20 January 2021 3:34 pm

Your reply provided my laugh for the day greengrass! But ain’t it the truth – people look for value for their hard earned money, investing in their lives not to be too burdened with taxes and user fees. Canada and the U.S. are heading along socialism lines. This will be paid for in higher taxes to the shrinking middle class and above middle class. May not reach to the highest bracket whom we read often pay no taxes at all. Examination of core service delivery and cost. Well get ready people for higher taxes from the comments I read so many have defended paying higher than private industry rates to tax payer funded workers.

Last edited 1 year ago by Liz
Reply to  Liz
21 January 2021 7:53 am

Government spending at federal/provincial levels has increased very significantly. Typically this means taxes at some level will have to go up. (income war tax was a temporary measure to pay for WWI) To reduce the income-gap we either need more higher paying jobs or higher taxes to transfer the wealth. With technology replacing many lower paying jobs it is/will be even more difficult for a certain segment of the population to find jobs. Some people are very capable of doing a lower skilled job but cannot be trained to do higher skill work. It is an unfortunate reality. Either the income-gap will keep increasing or taxes will go up to reduce after tax income of the higher income earners. In Cobourg there are people with comfortable houses to live in and people going through garbage looking for returnable bottles or anything else they might be able to use.

Reply to  Kevin
21 January 2021 6:33 pm

Excerpt from your link Kevin – “Finance Minister Bill Morneau says his government is not currently thinking about raising the GST or any other taxes” So what else is new? Hasn’t happened – Cobourg keeps asking for surveys which means influence by the most able area of tax payers whom they seem afraid to offend. Better to install User Fees for services that are supposed to be covered by taxes. This trend promises to continue – better get garbage tags now – they will cost more later this year.

19 January 2021 2:39 pm

Efficiency – Planning Department reports it has been short two planning staff for quite some time. Suggestion hire! Projects should be able to receive more efficient, faster and thorough consideration to approval or rejection. The initial hiring cost is offset by further development in Coburg resulting in more property tax, contributing to further tax spread to keep taxes more even during these times – employees contribute with purchases to business and many other economic benefits to Cobourg and its citizens. An investment that should reap great rewards – if it doesn’t then closer examination closer scrutiny of problems as raised by past development projects by other commenters on this blog.

Overall – Examine departments – rearrange staff should it be necessary, hire where necessary reducing some departments, increasing others and staff transfer to required areas. As Cobourg is growing. Unlikely much if any reduction would occur. Assist perhaps in forestalling further hire. Efficient use of “assets” always is part of a consultant review – they probably have suggested this already.

Last edited 1 year ago by Liz
19 January 2021 10:20 am

Looking Good !
I think we are off to a good start but a lot more could and should be done
I believe that a lot of people and families have had to look at cut backs this past yr and a few years to come, to catch up on the losses & short falls incurred by families and self employed . This Covid issue is far wider reaching than what the News brings us Just think of all those Mortgage Postponements and short term loans yet to be repaid , the investment losses
of seniors RRSP s etc when this first started How fast we forget ,. Commercial Tenants
in this town are leaving Landlords are leaving , skipping on the months & months of unpaid rent and utility & opening down the street with first and last month in their pockets pretending they are newly open and the Town advertises as a grand opening . Its time to stop believing
everything we have pushed at us in the news .

19 January 2021 9:01 am

Develop a monthly or quarterly application process/fee for developers to keep their equipment on a property. The documentation should include repercussions for lack of compliance (ie equipment removed at developers cost). This might clean up some of the properties around town with abandoned trailers, building supplies and equipment that are a real eyesore, some of which have been sitting untouched for close to 10 years!

Bill Thompson
Reply to  Phunkeemum
19 January 2021 3:27 pm

One extreme example of equipment LONG TERM abandoned next to the George Hotel….a large boom type rusted truck and a full size developer’s eyesore office trailer (wildlife living in them ?)advertising condos directly across from the Third St condos.
Town has been aware of it (10 years?) including present council yet no movement…Why not ?
Surely the council (s) must be knowledgable of the owners.

18 January 2021 2:56 pm

…and investigate a user fee system on weekends for the beach.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Informed
18 January 2021 9:22 pm

Not ever gonna happen.

Reply to  Informed
18 January 2021 10:08 pm

…and investigate charging the Cobourg Police Service Business Unit rent for their half of the Venture13 building. Are we even charging the Federal Government (CFDC) for rent and utilities?

Last edited 1 year ago by Frenchy
Reply to  Informed
19 January 2021 10:26 am

Here, here. There is no reason why residents should not be given a free pass to the beach, and visitors would pay a small amount to access the beach. This is done in many places were the beaches are not manicured daily and were life guards are not provided. Time and time again it has been shown that beach goers and their families spend very little in the town unless it is with vendors on the beach. The cost of running the beach is very high. We think little of paying to visit other natural sites. Certainly the idea must be worth exploring?

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Waterwatcher
19 January 2021 11:42 am

This idea has been kicked around on this news blog for several years but no one ever had the spine to step up to the plate to present the idea to Cobourg Town Council. This idea has no support from the community at large.

John Draper
Reply to  Waterwatcher
19 January 2021 1:31 pm

OK – please no more discussion on charging for the beach on this article. This post is about efficiency and user fees. The subject of the Beach and charging for it will come up at some future point – likely in the late winter or Spring. Please keep that discussion until then.

Reply to  John Draper
19 January 2021 11:01 pm

My response was to informed and thought user fees was the topic.

ben burd
18 January 2021 2:33 pm

“Increase Planning fees so that costs covered increase from 27% to 50%. Some of this is included in the 2021 budget.”

I can hear the screams from some of the members of the Board about stifling development already – how about development paying for development!

Last edited 1 year ago by ben burd
SW Buyer
Reply to  ben burd
18 January 2021 2:50 pm

I believe that KPMG also noted that Cobourg’s development fees are lower than peer communities. The higher development fees don’t seem to have stifled development in those Towns. Perhaps those (few??) Council members should ignore the knee jerk reactions, do some research and focus on the facts.

Reply to  SW Buyer
19 January 2021 9:58 am

Either way this does not Contribute to affordable housing or affordable rents
Just check out what they call affordable rents in Cobourg and make sure they are not Averaging over the County as they tend to do so it comes in under a $1000. per month
the rents are staggering and demand is higher than ever Vacancy rates have been running at . …5 % for 15 yrs around here over the last 15 yrs yet nothing has ever been done to really address the issue other than talk

Reply to  Sandpiper
19 January 2021 4:53 pm

How do you get low cost housing in a high tax town…not going to happen!

Reply to  cornbread
19 January 2021 6:45 pm

Affordable market rent housing is at 80% rental cost to private. In the last 7 years rental housing, just as everywhere else is up 75 to 200% There were plenty of $900. rentals 7 years ago – think it goes deeper then taxes that have nothing to do with cost of operation.
The news reported last night 50,000 people are fleeing Toronto alone each year for surrounding areas. Mississauga and Brampton probably have similar numbers. Selective and not enough development.
Cornbread – CIBC reports widening wage gap and job opportunties high to low earners – see link – Peterborough is building affordable housing as parks occupation is not a good idea as Toronto is trying to do.

Last edited 1 year ago by Liz