Progress on Efficiency Actions

It’s refreshing to see follow up by the CAO on last year’s KPMG Service Delivery Report recommending improvements in operating efficiencies in Staff operations.  At the next Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday, CAO Tracey Vaughan will present a progress report on 14 different actions covering all departments.  A template is used to keep all reports in the same format.   Reports are scheduled quarterly and the first report is in June as originally scheduled.  KPMG reported that major cost reductions could only be achieved by reducing services and although some reductions are being considered, the prime focus is on improving efficiency plus some increases in non-taxation fees (see Links below). Tracey is also looking for help from the Organizational Review currently being done.

Tracey Vaughan
Tracey Vaughan

With action on 14 initiatives being reported, I will highlight just the more significant of these – from a Citizen interest point of view.  See the links below for the full list.

Non-Taxation User Fees

An increase in Marina user fees has already been approved (2021 rate schedule here) but a complete review of all user fees in the Town is planned.  A consultant will be hired to do this – it appears that the criteria will be whatever comparable municipalities charge.

Tourism Reduction

The progress report quotes KPMG as saying: “Cost reductions vary from approximately $810K to $1.8M”.  The plan is to “determine what recreation, cultural and tourism activities could be eliminated and present findings at 2022 budget session.”  It’s also noted that: “During the 2021 Budget session, it was determined that the Concert Hall would remain closed until 2022. Staff who have left or retired will not be replaced until the organization review is completed.” Until the Tourism reduction report is public (during budget sessions), we won’t know what activities could be eliminated nor whether we would want them to be.

Parking

The intent is to increase revenue from parking by $150K.  Some meters will be replaced with Pay and Display machines (notably downtown) and parking fees would be increased.  There are currently no public details although Advisory Committees and the DBIA have approved plans. Council would need to approve before there are any changes.

Storm Water Management Fees

A complete review of operating and Capital Costs is being done.  When complete, a fee schedule will be established.  It’s not stated if this is expected to reduce or increase fees.

Transit

The idea of using smaller buses and operating on-call instead of scheduled routes is being tried out in a one-year pilot program.  Staff say that it’s “unknown if operating expenses will increase, (or) expected revenue (will) increase.”  That is, it’s not clear if ridership will increase so there would be a net financial benefit.  Staff will recommend a fare increase for the 2022 budget. A new contactless pass card system is also planned. Staff are:

Undertaking a transition to online bus pass sales and smart card service whereby riders can purchase multi-trip passes from several town facilities as well as third party sellers. Cards can be purchased as gifts and registered online to be topped up by credit card or can be reloaded on board the bus with cash. Discounted monthly passes can be purchased and reloaded online. Blank reloadable cards can be purchased at all participating facilities and then registered online for discounted monthly passes or a set number of rides (10 or 20). Phone in purchases will also be possible. Passes ordered online or by phone will be mailed, couriered or made available for customer pick up.

Economic Development – Business Attraction Funding

The future of this one-person department depends on a Strategic Plan being done shortly which will identify 2022 budget requirements.

Note that for many of the actions to happen, budget allocation will be required in the 2022 budget deliberations for implementation in 2022. Budget deliberations generally start in September so we should see some decisions before then.

Links

Articles on Cobourg News Blog

Documents on Town’s escribe web site

Attachments – individual reports

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ben burd
21 June 2021 3:37 pm

In some Staff Reports to Council there may be a landmine that converts the intended purpose of information, to an unintended consequence, I know I have read most of them since 1985.

In this one the big explosion is the recommendation to delegate sub-division approval to Staff. The reason given is that it would reduce Staff time by not having the Staff prepare reports to Council and would increase efficiency. But the resources needed to complete the task would be Staff preparing a report to Council! Sounds like a contradiction to me.

Now if Council does not get involved in planning sub-division agreements then how will they control the issues identified by concerned neighbours in the NIMBY syndrome? What will they do with the information contained in the report given to Council; after the fact, if they can’t control the process?

Seems like a half-baked proposal drawn up by consultants who really would like to reduce the role of Council to wielders of rubber stamps.

This one needs more thought and explanation before it ever gets approval.

MCGA
Reply to  ben burd
21 June 2021 7:17 pm

Not that the answer would negate your point but, as you have taken the time to read all those staff reports going back to ’85, how often has Council rejected Town Staff recommendations? Best guesstimate will do.

Last edited 4 months ago by MCGA
ben burd
Reply to  MCGA
22 June 2021 5:22 am

First things first, I did not make an effort to read back to 1985, I have been reading them from 1985. Second most reports do not make it to Council if Staff expect rejection. Those reports usually get put forward with a recommendation that Council make a recommendation. Very few get rejected because most Councillors over the ages defer to authority, beit the Mayor, and his votes or the Staff person writing the report.

That’s not the point MCGA if the sub-division authority is delegated then the only look at it, by Council, would be a report, that if it was contentious would result in a motion not to accept the report. That would lead to one of two things, either the agreement proceeding because the report was only informational, against Counci’s wishes or the commissioning of another report to change the agreement to Council’s satisfaction.

How much staff time and efficiency would be gained by that? This proposal is an effort by Staff KPMG to take Council out of one of the major pieces of local democracy.

Last edited 4 months ago by Ben
MCGA
Reply to  ben burd
22 June 2021 7:18 am

One would like that in a representative government the representatives would look to be actively involved in considering and debating decisions of consequence. That said, if those same representatives overwhelmingly agree to these staff reports then it would appear they have delegated effective approval already. I expect you have never been a consultant. One of the first principals is you almost never recommend the diminishment of power, unless they want to give it up, of the key decision makers…they usually hire you and approve your payment.

Concerned
Reply to  ben burd
24 June 2021 1:10 pm

Your point makes sense with a council who supports staff. Have you not noticed how many times councillors Chorley and Beatty bring their own ideas/amendments to staff reports at council meetings or in the case of a parking dispute on one street they totally ignored the staff report and went with appeasing a couple residents on the street.

Concerned
Reply to  ben burd
21 June 2021 9:47 pm

I think part of this is because operations are a staff responsibility and this council gets deep in the weeds of town operations and some appear to be control freaks. Why do staff have to bring a staff report to council to spend money that was already approved in the budget “, what a waste of time. We saw it tonight when Director Wills had to report on a project that came in under budget how better could her time have been spent on something else? This seems to happen with every expenditure. It would be interesting to know what spending authorities senior staff have in the town.

MCGA
20 June 2021 8:09 am

Let us assume KPMG is correct and that the only way to accomplish major cost reductions is by reducing services. The Town has decided to study efficiency and non-taxation fees as a more palatable alternative. Instead, why don’t we reimagine what we want the Town to do for its citizens. Focus only on those services which are truly the domain of the Town. (As an example: Should the Town be in the affordable housing business or should it be left to the County?) Establish fees where they will do the most good and properly match use with revenue or play with pay; such as a non-resident beach user fees to cover the costs of maintaining the beach, lifeguards, etc. Be mindful of creating a pricing death spiral…such as continuing to escalate marina slip rents while other locals are producing a far better product or service for considerably less. This may require some hard choices. Maybe we don’t want a marina or don’t want to maintain a harbor? Maybe we are willing to subsidize non-taxpayers with free use of Town assets? Maybe our mission is to duplicate, in part or in full, the responsibilities of other entities? If we are serious about this process, I believe that is what it will take.

ben burd
Reply to  MCGA
20 June 2021 9:22 am

Well said the CTA
Manifesto is up for everybody to see. Glad to see it others will now have an opposing point of view.

Frenchy
Reply to  ben burd
20 June 2021 11:13 am

Ben, can I assume that you feel that MCGA’s post is indeed the CTA’s “Manifesto”? It was kinda hard to understand your post, what with line breaks and missing punctuation.
It’s only been a few hours, but the early results show 17 “thumbs up” and no opposing points of view. 😐

ben burd
Reply to  Frenchy
20 June 2021 1:09 pm

Well I apologise for the bad layout and lack of punctuation prowess – unlike yours, but that’s what happens when I feel compelled to answer on my phone. Don’t worry Frenchy when I answer one of your posts I will proofread thrice and expect a Gold Star!

Frenchy
Reply to  ben burd
20 June 2021 8:40 pm

Your phone doesn’t have comas?
Thumbs update: MCGA supposed “manifesto” = net +27, your reply = net -4. Still no opposing points of view as you predicted. 😶

Last edited 4 months ago by Frenchy
Wally Keeler
Reply to  Frenchy
20 June 2021 9:52 pm

comas“; you don’t have spell checker? Commas.

ben burd
Reply to  Wally Keeler
21 June 2021 5:28 am

you beat me to it Wally! Here’s one for you Frenchy, ever heard of “Being hoisted on your own petard”?

Frenchy
Reply to  ben burd
21 June 2021 7:52 am

Good one!

JimT
Reply to  ben burd
21 June 2021 8:15 am

Well, at risk of wandering w-a-a-y off topic, it’s actually “being hoist on your own petard” which technically means being flung into the air by your own bomb.

The original quote from Hamlet:

For ’tis the sport to have the enginer

Hoist with his owne petar.

— William Shakespeare

Last edited 4 months ago by JimT
Frenchy
Reply to  ben burd
22 June 2021 9:58 pm

No Ben, I’ve never heard of that. I have however, heard of “Hoist with his own petard” as suggested by JimT.
Who/what were you quoting here Ben? Seems you have been “hoisted on your own petard” too. 😁

Last edited 4 months ago by Frenchy
Frenchy
Reply to  Wally Keeler
21 June 2021 7:52 am

Good one!

Frenchy
Reply to  Wally Keeler
22 June 2021 9:56 pm

Spell checker didn’t/wouldn’t pick it up.
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/coma
You should use yours more often too.

Last edited 4 months ago by Frenchy
Bryan
Reply to  ben burd
20 June 2021 12:09 pm

Ben:
Are you suggesting that MCGA is a CTA member/supporter and is “parroting” the “CTA manifesto”?
Could it be that MCGA is a smart, educated person, capable of independent thought and analysis? To be sure, his business experience as a consultant (financial & management) is clearly evident. In an orderly rational manner, he has asked some very perinate questions and provided some alternatives to consider.
MCGA’s main theme is that we (the Town residents) need to determine what services and levels of service we want and make these choices very clear to the Town (Staff and Council)

ben burd
Reply to  Bryan
20 June 2021 1:06 pm

Are you suggesting that MCGA is a CTA member/supporter and is “parroting” the “CTA manifesto”?”

Bryan,
Yes, and paving the way for the CTA acolytes on Council to claim that they are listening to the constituents!

MCGA
Reply to  ben burd
20 June 2021 1:18 pm

Not a member of anything…to paraphrase one of my heroes, Groucho: I would never join any organization that would have someone like me as a member.

Bryan
Reply to  ben burd
20 June 2021 1:28 pm

Ben:
All members of Council campaigned on the election plank of “listening to the constituents” So does that mean that all Council members are CTA acolytes?
I’m very sure that Clr Darling (and others) will be pleased to learn that they are under the control and spell of the mighty CTA.

ben burd
Reply to  Bryan
20 June 2021 3:22 pm

Bryan, why isolate Cllr Darling, you know he likes to lie in the weeds!

Ken Strauss
Reply to  ben burd
20 June 2021 2:32 pm

Ben, could you please provide a link to the CTA Manifesto so that I can compare it to MCGA’s well presented points? You didn’t mention any areas of disagreement so I assume that you approve of everything that he wrote.

Last edited 4 months ago by Ken Strauss
ben burd
Reply to  Ken Strauss
21 June 2021 3:42 pm

Ken you can be assured that if I ever ran for Council against the kind of CTA thinking, that abounds on this Board, you would hear my opposing point of view.

As it is, it would be wrong of you to assume that I approve of much on this Board put forward by “tax-fighters”!

Last edited 4 months ago by Ben
Ken Strauss
Reply to  ben burd
21 June 2021 10:23 pm

Do you plan to run?

MCGA
Reply to  MCGA
20 June 2021 12:14 pm

To addend this point, I would like to focus on just one item: the cost of refurbishing the harbor. The aggregate cost for repair was, I believe, estimated at $12.5 million (Let’s keep it simple and not add any inflation costs or interest costs in the event the Town needs to borrow to fund the project). Now we need to ask: Who pays for it, and how? If the answer is, the boaters, by way of slip rental fees; then we should also ask, is that going to work? Let’s test: Assume we have 180 seasonal boaters. Also assume that the Town wishes to recover its $12.5 million in 20 years or $625K per year. Then each slip will have to pay, on average, $3,472 above and beyond what they are currently paying. Will the market bear that cost? Absolutely not. Boaters will evacuate to Trent Port or Whitby or other locations because that added fee would more than double their annual costs. So do we do nothing or do we pass most or all of the costs to the Town taxpayers? In considering your answer, I would suggest to you that finding small operational efficiencies, as laudatory as that is, will not put a dent in this type of issue and I suspect that both the Provincial and Federal coffers will be bare post Covid19.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  MCGA
20 June 2021 12:30 pm

MCGA, please stop being sensible! Most of Council knows that money grows on trees and that the budget will balance itself. In any case the DIE initiative is far more important than discredited ideas such as fiscal responsibility.

Bryan
Reply to  MCGA
20 June 2021 1:20 pm

MCGA:

The $12M for repairing the harbour is a HARBOUR expense not the marinas. The marina is NOT responsible for the entire harbour, That responsibility rests with Parks (should be Works in my opinion). The need for harbour repairs has been known by staff and Council for many years: since at least 2002 when the Town bought the harbour from the Feds. Part of the deal included a $400K payment in lieu of repairs.

MCGA
Reply to  Bryan
20 June 2021 4:28 pm

Understood and agree. The thing is the collective “they” are going to look for someone to pay for it, other than the taxpayers. As the marina resides within, I suggest it will be guilt and expectation by association. Reasoning being: who benefits most? Either Coast Guard or Boaters, and the Coasties won’t be paying. Alternatively, there could be a never ending debate (interrupted by the occassional consultant’s report) until time and nature have their way and the damn thing is swallowed by the Lake. Based upon my limited experience in Cobourg, that last option is where I would put my money.

cornbread
Reply to  MCGA
20 June 2021 5:47 pm

Perhaps we should fill in the harbour and reclaim the new land. After it settled for a few years, we could add to our natural parkland in Cobourg. Do we really need a Coast Guard depot or a marina?

MCGA
Reply to  cornbread
20 June 2021 7:14 pm

In the short term, that too would have a price tag. If they leave it long enough it will likely silt up naturally while the piers and breakwaters will disappear beneath the waves. Not a great way to treat the Town Crown Jewel. But it would be cost free. The Coasties could find a new home and the marina could go the way of Port Hope.

JimT
Reply to  cornbread
21 June 2021 2:15 am

Fill in the harbour and make it a park? I think that’s a WONDERFUL idea. A lot more of us would make use of the new parkland than actually use the harbour at present.

Victoria Park, beach & campground: 28 acres.

Area of the harbour: 36 acres.

Just block off the gap and pump or dredge sand from the lake bottom into the harbour, the reverse of the way we do it now.

No-brainer!

Last edited 4 months ago by JimT
Wally Keeler
Reply to  JimT
21 June 2021 9:43 am

It would make a great parking lot. Charge non-residents a stiff fee for parking there. Forbid non-resident parking on residential streets, requiring them to park in the vast former harbour area, at the same price as parking in downtown Toronto.

Turn it into a golf course; charge good $$$$$ for the long term lease.

$ell to a developer to build more faux facade condos, collect taxe$.

The bandshell could be relocated there facing south, so that the performances can be heard in Rochester, rather than in nearby residences. Some performances could be monetized.

Midtown Creek could wind its way out to the lighthouse as a venue for toy boat races. Don’t know how to monetize this. .

Concerned
Reply to  Bryan
21 June 2021 9:34 pm

Let’s face it many previous councils failed this town in not properly funding the reserve fund and they continue to do it. We are soon going to need a new pumper truck and other vehicles costing over a millions and they don’t have the funding in the reserves for those yet. So again tax payers will foot the bill since they haven’t properly looked at capital expenses by forecasting out and budgeting for those expenses. It is extremely irresponsible on there part not to plan for replacement of items that you know are going to planned and replaced. The deputy mayor continues to cut costs in the budget but how will you fund anything when you don’t plan for the expenditures down the road?

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Concerned
21 June 2021 10:32 pm

So again tax payers will foot the bill since they haven’t properly looked at capital expenses by forecasting out and budgeting for those expenses. It is extremely irresponsible on there part not to plan for replacement of items that you know are going to planned and replaced.

Concerned, I don’t understand your point. Whether an expenditure is from reserves or a new budget item the expense is entirely paid for by the taxpayers. Proper forecasting and budgeting would reduce the number of surprises but the cost would be the same on our property tax bills.

Last edited 4 months ago by Ken Strauss
Concerned
Reply to  Ken Strauss
22 June 2021 10:48 am

If you plan and forecast you wouldn’t have to come up with 1 million or 12 million the money would be in reserves. For instance the 400k we were given for the harbour should have been put in reserves. Did you know based on KPMGs report that we have one of the smallest reserve funds based on our community size. No wonder we get in a panic when there is a major expense. It’s like your home if you know if five to 7 years you need to replace your roof you are going to save for it. Same with the harbour at some point you know it is going to need major repairs so you save for it. It is only good sound fiscal policy, everyone in government does it for a reason, most do it better than our councils. I remember this discussion in budget deliberations and they chopped the amount going into reserves thus making the hole even deeper down the road.

Last edited 4 months ago by Concerned
Concerned
Reply to  MCGA
21 June 2021 9:26 pm

So another study; because that is what they would have to do, at a cost of 40/60k, to decide what to do and elections coming up soon. It will take 20 years to get anything done if we change direction again.

Concerned
Reply to  MCGA
21 June 2021 9:39 pm

If you read the report they refer to the fact that the majority of expenses are of the mandatory type and very expenditures that are considered “non-descritionary” I believe this is why they state there is so little in savings to be found and that they only way
to find more money is to increase varying fees which obviously we would be against. But playing devils advocate, if we want more how are we supposed to get it if we aren’t willing to pay a little more? Not saying we do but how do we get there if we don’t.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Concerned
21 June 2021 10:34 pm

I believe this is why they state there is so little in savings to be found and that they only way to find more money is to increase varying fees 

I provided a savings proposal; eliminate the production of any further promo videos about the beach. Cobourg Tourism produced 17 videos over 10 years and posted them on YouTube. What’s the cost? Over a $1,000 per professional video? Are we talking $17,000 to $20,000 to produce videos that got ZERO shares on YouTube?

Visitors to Cobourg have produced 100s of videos of their visit to Cobourg. Varying quality but always authentic. Many of these videos get more views and more shares than the professional mediocrity produced by Cobourg Tourism. FREE publicity.

So eliminate any further production of promo videos.

Concerned
Reply to  Wally Keeler
22 June 2021 10:29 am

20k how is that going to help anything that’s a drop in the bucket. 17 videos over 10 years so that is a cost savings of 2k per year sorry but that won’t do a thing.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Concerned
22 June 2021 10:40 pm

Of course it is not much, but it is a savings, nonetheless. And it is better than NOTHING. So let us note that the amount of savings you have suggested amounts to NOTHING.

Last edited 4 months ago by Wally Keeler
Ken Strauss
Reply to  Concerned
21 June 2021 10:37 pm

Considering the expected costs of harbour repairs, new fire trucks, “affordable” housing, repairs to waterworks, unwanted/unneeded sidewalks, reduced funds from the province, etc, etc you should be prepared to pay a LOT more. Cobourg’s taxpayers simply cannot afford any frills.

Last edited 4 months ago by Ken Strauss
Concerned
Reply to  MCGA
22 June 2021 10:23 am

Again unless KPMG lied in their report, which I highly doubt, majority of expenditures are mandatory and not much in the way of non-discretionary spending. Councillors have their pet projects such as affordable housing. So unless you are willing to get rid of Transportation or sell off the utilities good luck.

Wally Keeler
19 June 2021 2:24 pm

Until the Tourism reduction report is public (during budget sessions), we won’t know what activities could be eliminated nor whether we would want them to be.”

Eliminate the production of tourist promotion videos, especially of the beach.