PARRY SOUND - The Town of Parry Sound is already anticipating tough budget deliberations in 2013.
To get ahead of the curve as much as possible, council approved, in principle, a Service Review Program and its senior leadership team to develop a department-based prioritized list of eligible services for review and consideration by the Service Review Committee.
Report to council
Town CEO Rob Mens presented the report and recommendation to council at its June 19 meeting. On Wednesday morning Mens said the move has been in the works for several weeks.
“It’s just to get ahead of the 2013 budget process and looking at all opportunities for efficiencies and revenue opportunities - cost savings,” said Mens.
Mens added that $900,000 is the target staff have identified as the combination of permanent reduction and new revenue necessary to stabilize the tax levy.
“The number is higher than the $700,000 council was previously advised of, due to a clearer understanding of reserve stabilization funds and other methods used to control the 2012 tax rate,” Mens said in his report to council. “Tax increases due to a shortfall in the range of $900,000 is clearly understood to not be acceptable. The $900,000 should be addressed through either new revenue sources, cost cutting, efficiency or other cost-saving opportunities. The amount is significant, because there have been such extensive reductions in town budgets over the years, especially in 2012.”
The town’s one-third share through long term and inexpensive debt on projects completed through senior government funding programs, cost overruns on some projects as well as ongoing reductions in provincial unconditional grants and increases in OPP costs are what have contributed to the town’s financial situation, Mens said.
“For the past many years, the current budget has been approached with a gap and each year we hope for a windfall, or manna from heaven and each year, it seems to come through,” Mens said. “This cannot be expected for 2013, especially because the 2012 operating budgets have been pared to the point where a surplus would be minimal at best. Further material reductions to operating budgets can only be made by addressing service levels, implementing efficiencies and generating new revenues. The capital budget has also been pared back for the past many years to the extent that there are minimal, if any opportunities for further reductions.”
The service review process is an evaluation in which specific municipal services are reviewed to determine the most appropriate way to provide them. The review also represents a more “methodical approach to budget crunch, than traditional or reactive tactics,” Mens said. “The intention is to identify options and recommendations for public and stakeholder consultations through development of committee terms of reference and outline of a plan to undertake the review.”
“The service delivery review process takes a different tact. Instead, there is a focus on setting priorities - making choices - and, where possible, and in the town’s situation, reducing the cost of delivery. There is the potential for also maintaining or improving services and service levels,” he said.
The process, Mens said, is expected to be complete sometime in early 2013.
“It will go into 2013, to say when it’s going to be completed, I’m coming back to council with a more detailed plan on July 17. So the time frame, at this point, I would target April 2013,” he said.