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Cost cutting discussions on 19 suggestions begin Wednesday morning

Fewer fire halls, libraries and town halls are among proposals highlighted in a report from Prince Edward County’s Chief Administrative Officer and Commissioners. Councillors will discuss the report Wednesday, March 14 beginning at 9:30 a.m.

Council has indicated its desire to achieve financial sustainability with the goal of better value for taxpayers, well delivered services and controlled costs. Staff  submitted a list of potential cost savings opportunities. Council direction is required on which actions it wishes to implement.

Suggested motions for consideration:
1. THAT Council direct as follows specific service and service level changes as a prelude to reorganization and redeployment of staff to meet core operational and service delivery needs, and optimize effectiveness and efficiencies:

2. THAT staff be directed to bring forward a by-law to delegate routine decision making authority to staff to streamline decision
making for the customer and allow Council to focus its deliberations on strategic issues and policy setting.

3. THAT staff be directed to bring forward revisions to the procedural by-law to achieve process efficiency and minimize costly meeting time.

4. THAT staff be directed to bring forward an updated purchasing by-law that will give more flexibility to staff to streamline the purchasing process and minimize costs, while maintaining appropriate controls and accountability.

5. THAT staff be directed to bring forward corporate and economic strategic plans that will guide Council decision making, align service delivery with overall goals and objectives and focus staff activities.

6. THAT staff be directed to negotiate all collective agreements to create more operational flexibility in order to become more efficient.

7. THAT staff be directed to review and revise the non‐union personnel policies to create more operational flexibility in order to become more efficient and bring forward external comparators grid adjustments to market to improve staff recruitment and retention, thereby reducing overall costs.

8. THAT staff be directed to identify for sale all surplus lands that clearly do not support our strategic plan(s) needs and use as
economic development drivers to either stimulate economic growth or should that opportunity not exist, generate revenue to pay down debt or replenish reserves.

9. THAT, subject to the Master Fire Study recommendations, staff be directed to rationalize the locations of and reduce the number of fire halls and reduce fleet requirements including potential divestiture of surplus buildings/equipment to reduce operating, maintenance and replacement costs and generate revenue from divestitures.

10. THAT, subject to a positive business case, staff be directed to relocate Public Works depots and combine with other functions where possible and reduce fleet requirements including potential divestiture of surplus buildings/equipment to reduce operating, maintenance and replacement costs and generate revenue from divestitures.

11. THAT staff be directed to rationalize the continued viability of each community centre/hall in the context of its use, cost and viable alternatives and, if there is a positive business case, divest certain ones and use them as economic development drivers.

12. THAT the Wellington Town Hall be declared surplus to the needs of the municipality and staff be directed to divest for use as an economic development driver.

13. THAT the Wellington Museum collection be transferred to an alternate location, the building declared surplus to the needs of the municipality and staff be directed to divest for use as an economic development driver.

14. THAT staff be directed to consult with and where appropriate and in the best interests of service delivery/improvement, transfer responsibility functions and/or facilities to community groups or affiliated “Friends of” organizations.

15. THAT the Bloomfield library building be declared surplus to the needs of the municipality and staff be directed to either relocate the Bloomfield library into the lower level of the community centre/hall or close it altogether and divest the library building for use as an economic driver.

16. THAT the Ameliasburgh library building be declared surplus to the needs of the municipality and staff be directed to relocate the Ameliasburgh library into the community centre or the museum church and divest the library building to generate revenue to either pay down debt or replenish reserves.

17. THAT the Consecon library building be declared surplus to the needs of the municipality, the library branch closed and staff be directed to divest of the building to generate revenue to either pay down debt or replenish reserves or return it to the parishioners as may be required.

18. THAT all non-statutory advisory committees be eliminated and their functions assumed by staff, with community input being sought on a case-by-case, as needed, basis to reduce staff support, improve staff productivity and reduce overtime costs, as well as speed up process time requirements.

19. THAT staff be directed to undertake a comprehensive review of our waste management strategy to identify optimum services levels, efficiencies and alternate delivery options.
Corporate Strategic Plan Implications:
All of the above actions will contribute to corporate strategic plan goals, but are primarily aimed at contributing to long-term financial sustainability.

Financial Implications:
All of the above actions will have positive financial contribution to the municipality either:
• as economic development drivers
• to pay down debt
• to contribute to tax stabilization and capital replacement reserves
• to improve efficiency resulting in reduced pressure on the tax rates

Policy Implications:
Staff will report further on initiatives that impact current policies or require new policies.

Notice/Consultation:
Implementation of any of the actions identified by council will result in appropriate ratepayer and stakeholder consultation.

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  1. Ted Cullin says:

    To Doris Lane: I suggest that you spend a Wednesday afternoon or a Saturday at the Consecon Library. It is also open on Fridays. There are a lot of people using that facility. Further more, the young people from Bayfield Home and the New Life Home for girls use the Consecon Library. If their using the library keeps just one of them out of the court system, it is money well spent.

    The financial crisis we find ourselves in is a result of amalgamation. The hoped for “economy of scale” has just not happened. The only people to benefit from this are the senior levels of the bureaucracy. They got higher salaries and bigger pensions. But I see no other benefits to the average taxpayer.

  2. Gary Mooney says:

    Council couldn’t agree earlier on what services to cut. I’m convinced that taxpayers won’t be able to agree on what services to cut. We have these services because they are the ones that we need and want. Having said this, I think that there are a few cuts that can be made without too causing too much hardship or opposition.

    I believe that Council’s objective should be: DO THE SAME WITH LESS. In other words, put maximum effort into finding ways to be more productive with fewer people.

  3. Doris Lane says:

    Marnie–there is no advantage to living in Picton . we pay a fortune for our water and sewer. we do
    not get mail delivery–but you are correct it is paid for by the federal government
    we certainly should not be paying for clothes our county staff wears==maybe just the fire chief
    i think most prople buy there own work clothes eg nurses
    enough said about enough things–we have about 2 or 3 councillors who are working hard to do their best–t oo bad they all do not work as hard

  4. Beth says:

    FYI:
    Rural Mail delivery is part of Canada post and not municipal budget considerations.

  5. Marnie says:

    It has been suggested that the Consecon library will be closed, not relocated SAB. Relocating the Bloomfield library is a backward step. Why don’t we try giving up a few of the frills that we never should have attempted to afford in the first place? What does it cost to outfit county employees with clothing for all seasons, embroidered with their names? A plastic ID card to pin to their shirts would serve the same purpose. It’s true that we all may need to give up certain things but why take our libraries and fire halls while council continues to enjoy expensive offices in the Edward building? Administration is going top of the line, then asking the ratepayers to accept library and fire hall closures/relocations. They should lead by example.

    Also, SAB, rural residents may get free mail delivery but they do not get street lights, sidewalks, water and sewer services, parks, etc. provided to them. They pay for security lights, wells and septic systems.

  6. Mark says:

    To pick at small items that are core and provide a sense of community is not accomplishing what is needed. Yes it saves a little but get to the real cost saving measures that will see big tax savings results. Get an independent staffing review completed pronto. There is a sense that the administration is over staffed. Let’s find out. The County cannot afford the model of Police Services currently in place. It’s cost is in the millions. The OPP come to the table with their handout with significant increases each and every year. Perhaps Belleville police could be contracted to pick up a section of the County. Would that be a savings? Let’s find out. I beleieve there may be over 50 OPP officers in the County. Do we need that many? Do we need all the big 4 wheel drive gas guzzling patrol SUV”s? Do we need to pay officers double to triple time on Good Friday to hide behind a sign at King and Elizabeth streets and chase little old ladys on their way to church? We need to take back control of runaway services in this municipality.

  7. SAB says:

    It is my understanding that the libraries that are only open a couple of days a week be moved to the community centres or town halls, people from these areas would still have this service. If this was to happen, we would at least not have the expense of the buildings.

    As far as staff being able to use the county vehicles,for their own purpose, (I don’t know of many people who have company cars to get to & from work), do they claim this expense to the tax payer, as a taxable benefit.

    People who live in Picton must pick up their mail, people in the surrounding areas have their mail delivered to their homes. We all have to give up something if we hope to be able to keep our taxes from going even higher than they are now.

    Just compare the budget from 1988 to 2010 and see how much it has increased, we must do something and fast

  8. Marnie says:

    Council should not be closing/relocating libraries, hiking bag tag fees, and closing fire halls. How did they allow things to get into this mess? Why didn’t somebody think of what could happen when a fortune was being spent on the Wellington arena. Even if incentive grants helped to build it, it was easy to see that the county would have to maintain this white elephant.

    Bloomfield library has been a part of the village streetscape for years. To close or relocate it would be a real loss to the community. Ditto for Consecon. These libraries are part of the fabric of community life and should be kept. The fire halls are essential for public safety.

    Staff cuts would go a lot further towards saving real money. We have managers managing the managers. Why do we need so many to manage a county with a relatively small population? Given the current state of affairs,it appears that we have be badly mismanaged. Council should be more hands on.

  9. w Miramontes says:

    Thanks, Myrna, for your contribution to this forum.
    The closing of libraries and town halls sounds to me like “Mr Ford leaves Toronto to rule Prince Edward County.” Libraries and town halls are so much more than book storage units and political edifices (a fact overlooked by people like Mr Ford) in a community like ours, for public gatherings; and it’s mindless to suggest centralizing fire services.
    So much money has been squandered on things like the destruction of the building adjacent to Shire Hall; the renting of part of The Edward for county employees while North Marysburgh School for one, stands vacant and proably decaying; and “feces on the hill.”

    We have no public transit, we have an aging population who need to have access to services nearby their homes. And now we may face at least a 10% increase in our residential taxes.
    Who’s in charge? — never mind; experience has taught me, beginning with a scam/scheme in the late 1980’s to manufacture coal logs at Port Hallowell Docks, that paid employees, too often, make decisions that the people we have elected, make decisions that affect us all.

  10. Elizabeth Globe says:

    The libraries in the outlying area provide more than books. These are also locations where those residents can purchase some (but not all) of the permits required within the county, including but not limited to burn permits and dog tags.
    Some of the vehicle you see going home are for the building department and for those of you who are not aware the building department is mandated to be completely self sufficient (no tax dollars support it). The inspectors take the vehicles home and are very often able to start the inspections earlier than if they had to drive to Picton to pick up the truck.
    Some of the vehicle go with the staff as they start/end their day performing the functions of their jobs close to where they live and to take the vehicle back to the yard would actually use more fuel.
    And fire halls, not where we should cut.

  11. Ken Globe says:

    Reduce the number of fire halls and equipment, sounds wonderful. Please remember that when some poor soul dies in a house fire, or the south shore burns because of some careless camper by the gull pond because the trucks had to come all the way from Picton.

  12. Vic Alyea says:

    Doris my friend – shame on you! Consecon is a county urban centre and actually services close to a thousand people. The library should be kept open. I use it as do many of my Hillier and Ameliasburgh neigbours. It provides internet access for many in the west end of the County. I can see this budget process being one where the rural western P.E.County folks tke the big hits but not the Picton/ Wellington/Bloomfield corridor. Consecon has struggled for years with poor streets and reduced levels of service. Although I don’t live there I’ve felt sorry for its residents for decades. Some one told me once that taxes are the price you pay for living in a civilized society. Let’s be very careful about what we throw away all for the sake of a few dollars. Vic Alyea

  13. Doris Lane says:

    Ken is right on and council should be responsible for and accountable to the taxpayer NOT staff.

  14. Paul M says:

    Hey I’m with Mark….what about the Police budget?!? Across Canada crime rate is falling and Police Services are escalating (26% of many budgets, PEC not sure?). Don’t invest in more or current levels, invest in the citizens and community programs (ie. Libraries, Halls, Education, Children). We are moving more to a Police State, let’s start to break this ridiculous cycle and spend our money on the citizen’s rightS and freedoms, NOT on restricting their rights with more Policing! REDUCE POLICE BUDGET.

  15. Dayton Johnson says:

    Excellent Idea Ken!! I like that. Make each councillor accountable and recognized for their behavior. Someone who can explain the costs,hiring and dismissals of employees…..all the details. Are we over staffed,,duplicated, complicated? Look around>
    Again,,Chris Keen has it right on all accounts.

  16. Gabrielle Holowacz says:

    LOTS of people use the Consecon Library! It would really be missed if it’s closed down. If these smaller libraries are closed, then lots of people will be without access to library services. Not everybody is able to make the long drive down to Picton.

  17. Ken Campbell says:

    A budget is accountability….which currently rests with staff! The accountability should rest with Council, HOWEVER, group accountability does not work, as business has historically proven every time.
    I recommend the Mayor assign each councillor, based on their proven strengths, a portfolio responsibility. Each portfolio would cover a sector of municipal business.
    Each councillor would be responsible for FULL knowledge of what is being presented to council relative to their portfolio and must sign-off as being in favour or opposed, and that the information is true, accurate and correct in content. If the staff budget submission exceeds current numbers, then that councillor is accountable to the taxpayer. The remainder of council could then decide, as it currently does, based on their personal knowledge to be in favour or opposed.
    The councillor with the portfolio is then accountable to the taxpayer.
    RULE OF BUSINESS – order – action – consequence
    The consequence to the councillor — re- elected; public scrutiny; defeat in next election.
    Each councillor independantly has accountability. It is a very strong motivator to ensure staff actions, submissions, requests etc are justified, accurate and legally correct.

  18. Doris Lane says:

    How many people use the consecon and ameliasburgh library–not many I would think
    not worth the cost of stocking it with books etc
    when we have to cut costs it should be the non essential services that are cut
    the whole world is in an economic crisis–should we not be doing something to solve our own here in the county
    someone mentioned the other day that we should only keep the services that everyone uses and get rid of services that only a few use

  19. virginia says:

    Cut libraries? Not an option. Oh, wait, cave dwellers don’t need libraries, do they?

  20. Jack says:

    Going outside the box. Prince Edward County was one of the very last to eliminate statute labour. I wonder if a model built around the concept of services rendered instead of tax dollars, could work to eliminate debt load. Just a thought.

  21. Chris Keen says:

    With tiresome regularity Council finds itself “behind the eight ball” year after year when it comes to setting the year’s tax rate. It’s 2012 – and here we go again – another sprint to come up with some number – no matter how haphazardly it is determined – that the majority of residents will “live with”.

    It seems to me that managing our tax dollars is among the most important functions Council fulfills. The decisions Council makes with respect to spending our hard earned tax dollars should not be crammed into a few weeks’ long space to meet a deadline every spring and then forgotten about. The budget is just too big a job to review effectively in the time Council puts aside.

    I would suggest that wise tax spending is a process that comes from a thorough, top to bottom review of every department’s spending at least once every two or three years. Start at zero – prove your case. If this were done on an on-going basis, there would be adequate time to look at each program, its purpose, its cost, and for Council to get public input as to whether or not it should continue. The process would be clear and transparent. No more “Phew, we’ve got our number – let’s move on”.

    Council did have a web poll a few years ago to ask for public input on expenditures. Unfortunately, the individuals designing the poll did not make it clear what services are mandated by law, so most of the public’s suggestions were dismissed as “unhelpful.”

    Now, Council is looking at 19 suggested expenditure items. Some of the items, like number 1, are almost impossibly vague. Nowhere is it suggested that the elephant in the room – staffing levels – be examined. At a glance, they all look like “low hanging fruit” with little cost impact. But who knows since NONE of them has a dollar figure attached to indicate the tax-savings if a specific item is enacted. How is this helpful to anyone?

    For example, Item 9 suggests reducing the number of fire halls. Has anyone thought about this for one minute? Do you know how much rural residents’ insurance premiums will increase if this is done? Are you ready for a lawsuit because it now takes 20 minutes for a fire truck to reach me instead of ten? And so on.

    Councillors need to remember two things as this exercise unfolds. Firstly, they represent one of three hands picking my pocket each year. And, secondly, unlike provincial and federal tax dollars which “magically” disappear from pay cheques before we see them, we actually have to put our municipal tax dollars aside. It’s “real” money. And because it’s “real” money, and it’s our money, the process has to change. Good luck to all.

  22. Doris Lane says:

    The libraries they are thinking if closing are only open for afew hours aweek and their cost far outweighs their benefits Picton and WEllington can service the library needs of the County. As for taking time to impliment cuts–we do not have a lot of time–we need to act quickly and council do not forget an audit of the staffing needs of the county
    As sugested by another writer do not let the county enployees drive those trucks all over–they should all be kept in a county facility and signed out each day as needed Time to cut waste in this county and also stop giving grants to every organization in the county–let them make it on their own

  23. Cheryl Anderson says:

    It seems to me that our new CAO is trying to find ways to organize and economize. In my opinion some of the ideas are appropriate. However,it is a bad idea to close libraries. They can be moved to other buildings if the building costs are prohibitive – maybe to community halls, schools or churches. The idea is to effectively make use of the buildings available. This process should not be rushed. It is as though Mr. Dewey has come into the County determined to shake us into shape as quickly as possible. Getting into shape may be necessary, but we need time to get used to the idea. Good luck to our Council as they grapple with the conundrum of reducing costs, and keeping people happy.

  24. Doris Lane says:

    good point about staff taking home the trucks and using our money to pay for the gas. I hope when staff does all these reviews that they review why we have so much staff

  25. Marnie says:

    With all of the responsibilities now being delegated to staff can we soon expect to read that more staff must be hired?

  26. Mark says:

    What about police services. Let’s get that on the table. Just how many million is it now? How many police officers are there in Prince Edward? Excuse me but the County is not a high crime area. We do not require nor can we afford this cadillac policing service. Each year the OPP come looking for another big chunk of the pie and we dole it out. Get to the meat. Find the savings necessary.

  27. Mark says:

    Where is the independent Staffing Review? Where is the cost review of administration and the lease agreements? Why are any County vehicles going home at night with staff given the price of fuel. For the odd time someone is called back into work it would be cheaper to pay mileage than a vehicle travelling back and forth from Ameliasburgh everyday on taxpayer gas. Let’s not pick around the edges, get to the meat.

  28. Myrna Wood says:

    This plan seems to me to be directed towards overturning the traditional rural democratic practices that were retained after amalgamation. For instance,
    -If the town halls and some libraries are sold community meetings can not happen close to home and cheaply;
    -Advisory committees will no longer relay public opinions;
    -Staff will be delegated to take over routine decision making,to minimize public meetings, and to negotiate working conditions with our employees;
    -Staff will identify buildings, properties and equipment to sell based on financial, rather than public values, criteria.
    -All this to be voted on in 24 hours, thereby avoiding public participation.
    O yes, there have been budget meetings held the last 2 weeks. I am reminded of the “consultation” process that the MNR and turbine corporations have given us!

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