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Take 'good hard look' at what's actually a core service: Greater Sudbury councillor

Should city be running trailer parks and a nursing home?

Ward 8 Coun. Al Sizer says his plans to review city services with an eye on making cuts have taken on a new urgency in light of provincial budget cuts.

For example, at Tuesday finance committee, councillors were told provincial budget cuts are creating a $1.3 million gap in annual daycare funding. It's those sorts of pressures, Sizer said, that will give his core services review a fighting chance of succeeding.

“There have been previous efforts by different municipalities (including Sudbury) to do a service review and divest themselves of some of the services they offer,” Sizer said. 

“As we can see with the provincial government and the cuts that continue to roll out, I think we really, really have to take a good hard look at what services we offer and whether we should be in them or not.”

The biggest recent effort in Greater Sudbury was by the late Dave Kilgour, who was councillor in Ward 7 in 2011 when a staff report outlined the costs and complications of selling Pioneer Manor to the private sector.

While Kilgour said at the time as much as two per cent of property taxes go toward paying for the long-term care home, the controversy the idea created and the complexity of process killed the proposal.

According to a report late last year from Auditor General Ron Foster, Pioneer Manor cost taxpayers $3.7 million in 2017. And there are plans to spend between $32 million and $36 million to redevelop between 130 to 160 beds to bring them up to a higher standard.

Sizer said Tuesday the core services review could have implications for Pioneer Manor and its future as a city-owned facility. Even though it would be a multi-year process – checking to see if, for example, existing LTC homes in the city would be interested in taking over – he said it is costly for the city to operate every year, and it's a service they don't have to provide.

“That certainly is a major outlay for us, and we're looking at a $5.4 million deficit plus capital expenditures,” he said. “So that's the big one. But it's one we have to look at and see if there's an interest in (selling it). But there has been talk about it before, so we'll see whether that appetite is still there.” 

Shorter-term, he's looking for the so-called low-hanging fruit – for example, he wonders why the city owns trailer parks. 

“I think there's five of them,” Sizer said. “So we really have no business being in that that type of service, and certainly a private contractor could provide that service and we could get out of those expenses.”

While it's not a major savings, he said a closer look at all 60 lines of business the city is involved in could yield combined savings that are much more significant.

With a budget-fighting provincial government, Sizer said some hard decisions will have to be made.

“We just cannot continue to maintain the services that we've become accustomed to through the residential tax base,” he said. “Provincial dollars are being reduced. So we have to look at at where we're spending our dollars.”

A report from city staff on Sizer's core services review is expected before the end of 2019.


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