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City could save $4M a year closing old arenas, reducing parkland, KPMG report states

KPMG review earmarks 10 ways city can reduce operating costs

A review of core city services has concluded the city could save $4 million a year in operating costs in a relatively short period of time, but some of the top 10 ideas KPMG identified in its report are sure to be controversial.

The biggest source of potential savings – $1 million annually – could be realized within two years, the report said, but will be the hardest to implement.

KPMG said that no detailed review of how many facilities the city has, compared to how many are needed, has taken place since amalgamation two decades ago.

“Our review identified facilities with low utilization and cost recovery percentages, including two arenas, four community halls/centres and two pools,” the report said. “Through rationalization of facilities, the city can focus its operational maintenance spend and capital investments to providing modern, up-to-date, multi-use facilities without a significant impact on the taxation levy.” 

As part of the report, service, taxation and spending levels in Greater Sudbury were compared to four other Ontario cities to see where we rank: Thunder Bay, Windsor, Guelph and London. The study was funded by Ontario, which provided municipalities with money to complete reviews of the operations ahead of expected budget cuts from the province.

When it comes to facilities, the report said we have more indoor recreation space than any of those other cities – 114,000 square metres, compared to an average of 78,000.

Those facilities cost a total of $9.1 million a year to operate and maintain. Minus the revenue they generate, the net cost to property taxpayers is $5.27 million. That could be reduced by 19 per cent or $1 million if underused ones were closed, KPMG said.

However, past attempts to close facilities have met strong opposition. Council considered closing I.J. Coady Arena in Levack in 2013, and replacing it with a new, two-pad arena in Chelmsford. That plan sparked outrage in Levack, and it was dropped in favour of a $2.3 million renovation to the Chemmy rink.

A proposal to close one of the ice pads in Capreol's two-pad arena, as well as two older ones in the Valley in favour of a new twin-pad facility has also sparked opposition.

“This opportunity would have a minor negative short term impact for residents in wards where surplus/end-of-life facilities are disposed of,” the KPMG report says. “This would be offset by the higher level of service which could be provided to better maintain other facilities due to the operating savings realized from this rationalization.”

Close to $1 million in annual savings could also be had if the city reduced the amount of parkland it maintains, the report said. Greater Sudbury maintains more than double the amount of parkland compared to the four other cities – a total of 1,400 hectares, at a net cost of $4.8 million.

That works out to 7.3 hectares of parkland per 1,000 residents, and exceeds the city's own policy, which sets 4 hectares per 1,000 residents as a target. Because there is so much land to maintain, service levels are well below average.

“Naturalizing the excess 633 hectares of maintained parklands down to the approved service level could see the city realize savings of up to $1.8M per year in reduced operating/maintenance costs,” the report said. 

“If a portion of these savings were to be utilized to increase the service level for remaining parkland with an additional 30 per cent budget per hectare, the net savings would approximate $980,000.” 

The process would take about a year to complete, KPMG said.

Other ideas in the top 10 include privatizing operations at Adanac and Lively Ski Hills. Sudbury is the only one among the comparator cities to offer the service, the report says, and it costs taxpayers $243,000 a year. That money could be saved if they were taken over by the private sector.

Using its office space more efficiently could allow the city to rent space, and raise $193,000 in new revenue. Eliminating desk phones and going to mobile phones could save another $100,000, while charging local school boards for use of arenas and other city facilities could raise about $175,000.

Read the full report here.

Darren MacDonald

About the Author: Darren MacDonald

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