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Copy good ideas, avoid property tax hikes
Friday, 3 June 2016 - 9:00am
If you don’t like big property tax increases, try sharing a new Manning Centre report with your local mayor and council.
In Municipal Efficiencies: Examples of Cost-Saving Initiatives from Across Canada, policy analyst John Whittaker has compiled over 200 examples of ways that Canadian municipalities have cut costs and delivered services more cost-effectively.
If your local municipal politicians study the report, and steal some of the great ideas documented from other towns and cities, your council might just be able to free up enough savings to avoid a tax hike or two.
Research for the report began earlier this year when Whittaker contacted 75 of Canada’s 3,600 municipalities. He asked them to share examples of innovative ways they have reduced costs. 20 municipalities responded, providing lots of really interesting ideas for saving money.
For example, in Fredericton, NB, the city government decided to instruct bus drivers to turn off their buses at stations where they would have previously sat idling for ten minutes while waiting for passengers. By turning off their engines during those waiting periods, the city is now saving over $20,000 in annual fuel costs.
Fredericton also did something really novel with their landline telephones. They sent a survey around to city employees, who were also equipped with a work cell phone, and asked if they still used their landlines. For employees who indicated that they didn’t use their landlines, or seldom used them, the city cancelled the lines. Officials also cancelled services that employees indicated they didn’t use (eg. call display). As a result of these service changes, the City of Fredericton is saving over $30,000 annually.
In Victoria, BC, the city government changed its tender process and the decision is producing substantial benefits. By switching systems, the city is not only saving $20,000 in photocopy and courier costs, the cost of products they purchase has also dropped. Why? Because Victoria is now receiving bids for supplies from all over the world.
Officials told the Manning Centre that some bids come from as far away as China and India. We were told the new system has led to millions of dollars in savings as a result of increased competition.
Another great example worth copying comes from Calgary where the city introduced some new technology at its sewage treatment plant. In short, the new equipment captures some of the methane coming from sewage at the plant and turns it into electricity, saving the city $2.1 million annually in electricity costs.
Needless to say there are plenty of other good ideas in the report worth reviewing.
In fact, there are likely thousands of other good ideas across the country that didn’t make the report, but are worth documenting and sharing. Recall, the 200 ideas that Whittaker included in his report only came from 20 municipalities. Imagine if the country’s other 3,600 municipalities started focussing on sharing their best cost-saving ideas.
Try sharing this column with your councillor and ask what their plan is to steal good ideas from other cities.
- Colin Craig works for the Manning Centre in Calgary and is the author of The Government Wears Prada.
This column was published by Sun newspapers (Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, Winnipeg Sun, Edmonton Sun & Calgary Sun) on June 3, 2016