Highlights of the 2014 proposed Tax-supported Operating Budget

Rather than introducing a number of new initiatives, the proposed 2014 Tax-supported Operating Budget sets the stage for the City to continue to deliver on important work already underway. It is a budget that supports the City’s mission to build an exceptional city by providing outstanding municipal service and value.

The $192,865,918 proposed budget represents a 3.36 per cent increase over last year—2.73 per cent to maintain City programs and services, and 0.63 per cent to invest in initiatives designed to streamline and optimize City operations.

The 3.36 per cent increase represents an average property tax increase of $107 for the average residential taxpayer with a property valued at $311,136. Combined with proposed changes to Guelph’s water and wastewater rates, the potential impact on an average household is roughly $134 in 2014.

What’s already underway

The City’s commitment to optimizing its systems, increasing efficiency and productivity are reflected in its progress on several initiatives highlighted in the Corporate Strategic Plan. These initiatives are moving the organization forward towards organizational excellence, innovation in local government and in community city-building. They require continued support in order for the community to experience the benefits associated with each program.

Affordable Bus Pass Program

After a successful pilot phase, introduction of a discounted monthly bus pass category for eligible low-income residents will increase access to public transit resulting in new riders being able to afford to use public transit.

Corporate Technology Strategic Plan

Continued implementation in 2014 will modernize the City’s business systems and use technology to deliver more efficient and effective service to the community.

Employee Engagement Strategy

City departments are implementing action plans designed to improve employee engagement; engaged employees are more productive and inclined to drive innovation in the work place leading to the delivery of better services and programs to the community.

Integrated Operational Review (IOR)

A collaboration between the Planning, Building Services, Engineering and Enterprise Services departments intended to improve the development review process, and make it easier for the business community to work with the City on planning and development matters.

Urban Forest Management Plan

Approved by City Council in 2012, the plan is the City’s primary tool in pursuit of reaching Guelph’s goals of increasing the size and health of its urban forest, and having the highest tree canopy percentage among comparable municipalities. Implementation of the 20-year plan began in 2013, and the proposed 2014 budget recommends continued funding to enable the City to continue executing the plan.

What’s new, what’s changed and why

Organizational Assessment

In 2013 an Organizational Assessment was completed. Its recommendations are intended to strengthen how work is undertaken by focusing existing resources on the most critical priorities, building staff capacity to ensure the right skills are available and freeing up existing capacity to be used to its maximum potential. The organizational Assessment strongly recommended fundamental action as per the following:

  • Establish a standardized approach to program/project management
  • Secure specialized capacity in business process optimization, change management and program
  • management
  • Address a shortage of 10 administrative support positions
  • Ensure targeted training and development budgets are met
  • Address vacancy management

In response, the City is using existing resources to redesign its training and leadership development programs and examine the vacancy management system. The City is recommending three investments in the 2014 budget; a contract Program Manager, Business Process Improvement Specialist and a Timekeeping Review. learn more

Recreation Fee changes

The City recommends increasing its revenues by $15,000 through a new surcharge for recreation facility rentals. Commercial users would pay 10 per cent more than non-profit organizations.

Base budget and growth

The proposed base budget represents a 2.73 per cent increase or $5,085,204 over last year. This amount includes adjustments due to efficiencies, increased demand, or growth.

Compensation

Like any business, employee compensation is a significant portion of the City’s operating budget. Salaries and benefits represent 46 per cent of the operating budget, which is equal to or less than municipal and other public sector averages.

Ongoing management of compensation costs remains a priority. For example, by reviewing and finding efficiencies in the administration of employee benefits, the City has saved approximately $1 million over the past five years. To align the City’s benefit costs with municipal benchmarks, the City informed Council of its plans to continue working with all employee groups through the collective bargaining process to find additional savings in benefits plan design while maintaining fairness to employees, and continued investment in employee wellness.

In 2013, the City introduced a revised Attendance Management program to improve regular attendance at work and manage lost productivity costs to the organization. As of September 2013, there has been a 6.7% reduction in the average number of days lost due to absences. Managing overtime is the subject of an internal audit, and results will be reported before the end of 2013. The results of this audit will be taken very seriously by the leadership of the organization.

Vacancy management continues to be a significant focus for the administration in its management of compensation costs. The 2014 budget includes a more assertive approach towards total salary savings of $1.8 million (i.e. an increase of $500,000 over 2013) to reflect ongoing management of unspent salary dollars resulting from employee turnover and naturally occurring vacancies.

Employee Engagement Strategy

In 2014, the City requires $50,000 to build capacity to re-survey employees, and respond to actionable organizational priorities following each survey. Examples include but are not limited to leadership development, job satisfaction, and better employee communication mechanisms. Using benchmark results from 2012 the City will continue measuring and reporting on the success the Employee Engagement Strategy to Council and the community.

The proposed budget includes an investment of 0.63 per cent or $1,193,100 to continue streamlining and strengthening City operations and enhancing service to the community.

Organizational Assessment $142,100

Contract Program Manager, Corporate Projects: funded within the administrative overhead budget for capital projects for a period of three years to establish and embed this practice and provide internal training to key staff. The $119,400 contract position cost has no impact on the operating budget.

A Business Process Improvement Specialist $92,100: working with the Internal Audit function and Finance Department to drive service optimization to gain cost savings and productivity. It is forecasted that after a full year of funding, this position will fund itself through cost savings in subsequent years with annual progress reporting.

Timekeeping Review $50,000: The Organization Assessment recommended increasing administrative support across the organization. Early work on the City’s timekeeping systems suggests there are opportunities for optimizing the technology and the number of staff using the timekeeping system.

Improvements to the payroll and finance systems have potential to free up existing administrative resources, reduce system licensing costs and enable resources to be reassigned to address recommendations from the Organizational Assessment. To expedite a thorough system review, and in the absence of internal resources and capacity, staff recommends investing $50,000 for a consultant to perform the review.

Integrated Operational Review (IOR) $280,000

IOR Implementation Plan $169,400: To proceed with short-term, high-priority initiatives including; a triage protocol to improve the City’s response to investment opportunities with multiple and/or major benefits to the City; a capacity analysis to improve staff resource allocation and application processing; a map of the development review process and key performance measures; an enhanced communications and customer service strategy specific to the development review process; and support for ongoing Corporate Technology Strategic Plan projects in relation to the development review process.

Development Planner II $110,600: to increase capacity of the organization and provide intermediate level planning experience for a variety of development planning. This position is one of 23 recommendations of the IOR and would assist the Project Manager during the implementation phase.

Enterprise Development Officer $93,700: This position would further support the recommendations of the IOR and enhance the City’s ability to attract and facilitate development investment downtown, ensure efficient processing of development applications, reinforce relationships with existing property owners and foster partnerships and opportunities to enable redevelopment of complex sites including brownfields across the city, the Guelph Innovation District, and nodes in the east and south end of the city.

Corporate Technology Strategic Plan $130,300

To keep pace with work required to make system improvements, and ensure capacity to implement capital plans, the proposed budget recommends investing in a full-time Corporate Application Analyst.

Corporate Health and Safety Program Coordinator: This position will provide greater oversight to health and safety legislative compliance and significantly reduce reliance on external legal resources to manage WSIB Appeals.

In 2013, the City avoided $1 million using external resources to address WSIB Appeals process. To mitigate risk associated with health and safety legislative compliance, mitigate costs related to WSIB and short and long term disability, and continue avoiding costs associated with WSIB claims, the City recommends more focused attention in this area.A new full time position at $98,500 will be funded from the WSIB Reserve with no impact on the operating budget

As reported in the HR Annual Report, Corporate Health and Safety duties and responsibilities are shared among existing resources, and the City continues to experience increases in reported and actionable WSIB incidents.

Municipal benchmarking information supports the need for increased capacity (i.e. benchmarks demonstrate an average of 4.3 FTE’s dedicated to Health and Safety – compared to Guelph’s practice of splitting responsibilities and assigning them to two existing positions). .

Committee Coordinator $86,000: This position is required to address the Legislative Services function within the City Clerk’s Office to support a 100 per cent increase in the number of active standing committees over the last two terms of Council. As reflected in the department’s Annual Report, the compliment of the Guelph Legislative Services division is 57 per cent lower than its comparator average (i.e. two employees as compared to 4.6).

The report also shows that, in 2012, the division supported 27 per cent more annual meetings (90) compared to the average (66.5).

An additional resource would add much-needed capacity to respond to increasing volume and complexity of responsibilities in the City Clerk’s Office.

Fleet Mechanics $159,500: Increase capacity to perform required and preventative fleet maintenance and meet requirements of Commercial Vehicle Operator Registration (CVOR).The City’s fleet has grown by 58 large assets since 2008, including eight additional buses. This increase has resulted in a maintenance resource gap of 6.9 FTE. The City will report on any savings in overtime and contracted services costs resulting from adding two full time positions at $79,750 each.

Urban Forest Management Plan $205,700: Continued execution of Council-approved plan recommends two forestry technicians at $82,050 each and, and part-time GIS technician at $30,000 (2.5 FTEs) plus $11,600 cost of vehicle, desk and computers etc.

The proposed budget balances affordability, predictability, and excellent service for taxpayers. Its development was influenced by Guelph’s strong financial foundation, solid financial, performance, strong future financial positioning, and open financial reporting.