City of Saskatoon's Enhanced Snow Removal Operations Contribute to Projected Deficit
A regularly scheduled quarterly status update regarding the 2014 Corporate Business Plan and Budget projects a deficit of $1.947 million to year-end.
'With the harsh winter we had last year we made some adjustments to our snow and ice budget for this year,' says Director of Finance, Kerry Tarasoff. 'As the season progressed we had to further enhance snow removal and a good portion of the deficit can be traced to those necessary costs.'
Civic departments have identified continuous improvement initiatives and have embarked on process improvements that are expected to be completed in 2014. These initiatives are expected to improve the efficiency and increase the effectiveness of civic operations resulting in improved customer service and savings of $1.4 million in 2014.
Following a recent policy change, quarterly reports are prepared to make sure City Council and the Administration are aware of challenges or emerging business plan and budget issues so they can react accordingly.
'Whenever we see deficits in our projections the Administration begins looking for ways to save or for lessening the impact of a shortfall,' Tarasoff says. 'That is why the City moved to quarterly reports; it gives us time to work on eliminating a deficit so it doesn't have to be passed on to taxpayers at budget time.'
The following is a summary of the main items contributing to the projected variance:
Snow Removal: An estimated $1.1 million deficit is being projected as a result intensified snow removal operations. Significantly more resources were spent on removal than in typical years, due in part to a reassignment of crews following the formation of ice pack on residential streets and removing snow against freeway barriers. A $489,000 reserve balance would exist at year-end to help cover a portion of the deficit leaving a net impact of $580,000. The Administration will strive to reduce this impact through deferral of purchases, deferral of discretionary spending and reduced contract costs in late 2014.
Fleet Services: Pricing on unleaded fuel is about $1.20 per litre compared to budget of $1.08, causing an over-expenditure of $215,000. However, the Fuel Stabilization Reserve has a $1 million balance and will cover this deficit at year-end for a net zero impact.
Waste Handling Service: Increased equipment rentals for the landfill, as well as lower revenues, are contributing to a projected $382,000 deficit.
Property Levy: Assessment growth was $486,000 higher than the anticipated amount of $5 million due to increased construction activity.
The report also provides highlights of key projects (by March 31, 2014) as they relate to City Council's Strategic Goals:
Three Civic Service Reviews (CSR) will be completed in 2014; Roadways, Parks and Waste Management. CSRs for Roadways and Parks started in March and the Waste Management is scheduled to start in the second quarter.
Continuous Improvement (CI) initiatives are underway throughout the corporation. Process reviews were undertaken in Purchasing, Business Licensing and at the Water Treatment Plant.
The pilot project for Service Saskatoon, Report a Pothole, was launched in March 2014, allowing citizens to make service requests online and also allowing civic staff to report back when the work is complete.
Asset and Financial Sustainability
Twelve civic facilities now have energy and water monitoring systems. The information gathered by these systems will lead to utility reductions and productivity improvements within building operations. Results will be reported in December. Combined Heat and Power units will be installed by early 2015.
A snow storage facility is part of the COC. This P3 project is in the Request for Proposals phase. Development of a facility for the South East quadrant of the City continues in conjunction with other future growth initiatives.
Quality of Life
The Age Friendly Saskatoon Phase 2 report was presented to City Council in January. The report contains a series of recommendations for how to make Saskatoon more age friendly.
The Atoske Alumni group was formed and is working on enhanced training opportunities for Aboriginal youth.
As a benchmarking exercise, Saskatoon was one of seven mid-sized Canadian cities to participate in the measurement of its cultural investments between 2009 and 2012. Over the four-year study period, Saskatoon ranked first in operating, second in overall investment, fourth in capital investments and sixth in grants.
Through membership in Municipal Collaboration for Sustainable Purchasing, a ten-step action plan has been drafted and includes the identification of pilot purchases that will use environmental criteria for decision making. The next steps will be to develop tools such as training for staff and templates for purchasing documents.
The Landfill Gas Collection project was commissioned in March 2014 and operation of the Power Generation Facility also began in March.
The Saskatoon North Partnership for Growth (P4G) held its kickoff meeting which was attended by elected officials in February 2014. Staff from the five partnering municipalities have been working on a Draft Terms of Reference, Work Plan, Communications and Engagement Strategy, and Budget for a Regional Plan.
The Intermediate Strategy for infill development will be prepared as part of the Growing Forward! project through the corridor identification and densification opportunities.
A comprehensive approach to transit market research has been incorporated into the Growing Forward! Initiative. A complete market study and functional design for an updated transit system has been included in this work. In the interim, route enhancements will be made to make sure the existing service adapts to changing transit patterns and city growth.
Economic Diversity and Prosperity
Building permit numbers are slightly ahead of permits than in the first quarter of 2013 by 4.9%. The value of construction associated with those permits in the first quarter of 2014 is slightly behind the numbers achieved at the end of the first quarter in 2013 by 23.9%.
Building permits issued to the end of March 2014 represent the creation of 665 new residential units, compared to 401 for the same time period in 2013.
For more information:
City of Saskatoon
222-3rd Avenue N
Canada, S7K 0J5
Tel: (306) 975-3200