Regina Executive Committee approves efficiency review, $60M loan for Buffalo Pound Water Treatment Plant
REGINA -- The City of Regina's Executive Committee approved two projects at its meeting on Wednesday, including an efficiency review for the city's operations and a $60 million loan for the Buffalo Pound Water Treatment Plant.
The third party efficiency review aims to try and find any savings for the city.
Administration said the primary purpose is to find ways to “do more or better with the same.”
The city will take a multi-phased approach to formalizing and implementing an Efficiency Review Program. During the first phase, a third party consultant will be tasked to review six to eight city services by the end of the year.
“I think it allows the city to go under that external review just to raise either concerns or actual wins,” Mayor of Regina Sandra Masters said.
Up to $250,000 from the General Fund Reserve would be used to secure a consultant. Administration says the cost is an estimate based on other municipalities.
“To amend or to change behaviour sometimes takes that external viewpoint who has the viewpoint of other municipalities that are doing things that we’re doing but maybe in a different fashion,” Masters said.
The last independent efficiency review was performed in 2004. Over the past four years the city has been able find $20 million in savings through internal reviews. Masters said $20 million is four per cent of the Regina’s budget, and believes up to 15 per cent of savings can be found.
She said cities like Calgary have found similar results.
“Speaking with Mayor [Naheed] Nenshi, he had 16 per cent of his budget and he has a $4.5 billion budget,” Masters said.
Masters added that the review is not intended to cut jobs.
“If we can free money up to invest in other programming, that’s really the ultimate goal in my opinion,” Masters said. “If we can save peoples time and free up time for better service provision, or for other programming opportunities, that’s really what we’re looking for, because we want to be more as a city.”
Ward 6 Councillor Daniel LeBlanc said it’s possible the review could result in suggestions for improvements to services, but he worries it will lead to a reduction in services.
“I think this is a step to cut costs and cut services and that makes me nervous at a time when people are relying on those services,” LeBlanc said.
Administration recommends until Phase One is completed, no decisions should be made about the next phases. It expects the review will lead to a comprehensive plan and would ensure services are reviewed at regular intervals.
The review still needs to be approved by city council before going forward.
BUFFALO POUND LOAN
Regina’s Executive Committee also approved a loan of a maximum of $60 million to address the financing requirements of the Buffalo Pound Water Treatment Plant Renewal Project.
Buffalo Pound has been working on a plant renewal project that will require debt financing for a portion of the project. It estimates $60 million will be required, and needs City authorization to negotiate with lenders.
“Water is a fundamental service that our city has to provide to citizens, but it’s also important to our economic growth. So, investing in that infrastructure now for the long-term is crucially important for the future of the City of Regina,” Mayor of Regina Sandra Masters said.
City administration said Buffalo Pound has indicated the move will not cause an increase to the water rates that the city pays. Buffalo Pound Water Treatment Corporation is expected to pay the debt over 25 years.
The city of Moose Jaw’s executive committee has also agreed to a similar agreement.
The financing agreement still needs to be approved by city council before going ahead.