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KPMG review finds 100 ways — some likely controversial — for city to spend less

Suggestions like closing facilities, privatizing ski hills operations are sure to face opposition
KPMG conducted a core services review for the City of Greater Sudbury, and suggested privatizing city-run ski hills. (File)

City council received an update Tuesday from KPMG on its core services review, which has identified “100 opportunities” for Greater Sudbury to deliver the same services for less money.

The $300,000 study is being paid for using the city's share of a $8.15-million fund the province has offered cities to conduct a “line-by-line” review of their budgets.

Nick Rolfe, a partner with KPMG, told councillors at Tom Davies Square the goal is to identify where savings and efficiencies are most likely to be found, and to rank them according to the potential to save money and streamline service.

The review is focused on seven areas: recreation, arenas, facilities management, community grants, long-term care, parks, road operations and maintenance.

“But we are looking at opportunities in other areas, as well,” Rolfe said.

An earlier report said the city is involved in 58 lines of business, of which only 11 are required under provincial legislation, including such things as taxation, housing, children services, cemeteries, building inspection and fire protection. But those 11 services consume 58 per cent of the city's $615-million budget. And the rest are largely services municipalities traditionally offer, such as arenas, homeless shelters, libraries and public parks.

The goal of the report is not to eliminate services, but to find ways to deliver them more efficiently and for less money. The final report, which will rank proposed changes according to their potential impact, is coming in January.

But Rolfe listed the top 10 ideas that have emerged so far:

  • Rationalizing (reducing) the number of city facilities
  • Creating a digital city to facilitate enhanced engagement with citizens 
  • Implementing a lean management system
  • Reviewing the joint arrangements with school boards for the shared use of facilities 
  • Re-engineering of phone systems to move to softphones (software for making phone calls over the internet)
  • Expanding facilities management systems to utilize data and automation
  • Exploring opportunities to minimize/optimize office space
  • Conducting a fleet utilization study
  • Reviewing parks/maintained parkland requirements
  • Outsource ski hills to private sector/third party

While some of those ideas — such as outsourcing ski hills or closing facilities — have proved controversial in the past, things such as software improvements would be easier to accomplish.

“We are in the process of creating opportunity scorecards for our top 10 opportunities, assessing the internal/external impact, budget implications and risks associated with implementing opportunities,” KPMG said in its report to council.
KPMG's Nabil Vazsani told councillors that “high-level” takeaways they have found so far include improving the way the city monitors service delivery down to the “granular” level. That would give council a much better idea of how much the service costs to deliver, and would improve the accuracy of budget forecasts.

Better utilizing software would help reduce duplication of data entries, some of which is still done initially by pen and paper. Other information is needlessly inputed more than once into the system because there's often a lack of a standardization across all departments for data entry, some of which use different software.

Rob Hacking, who's leading the review for KPMG, said for each service, there are six or seven criteria they use to compile a score out of 35. The higher the score, the more likely there's a chance to save money. Unlike other cities where KPMG has conducted similar reviews, the highest score for any service in Sudbury was around 25.

“So you’ve done a lot of work already,” Hacking said. “You’re a pretty lean organization.”

Ward 7 Coun. Mike Jakubo said that was good to hear, since the narrative in the media often portrays the city in a poor light at budget time.

“This objective report to council shows we are always driving for efficiencies,” Jakubo said.

Mayor Brian Bigger said the city has already made significant steps to become leaner. When he was elected in 2014, city staff went through what became known as P6 – an effort to find $6 million in savings, which allowed property taxes to be frozen in 2015.

“A few years ago, a lot of what we did was with pencil and paper,” Bigger said. “So we’ve come a long way ... We know where we’re going as an organization.”

A final report will come in Janaury, but the report council received Tuesday can be found here ( ).


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Darren MacDonald

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