There are at least 150 ways that the Town of Newmarket could be run more efficiently, according to the results of a provincially funded audit spurred on by a challenge to municipalities from Premier Doug Ford.
“The main thesis is that the town has grown significantly, and the organization has some catching up to do,” say consultants from StrategyCorp, who were hired by the town thanks to a $172,000 grant provided by Ontario’s Audit and Accountability Fund.
None of the audit initiatives will result in staff layoffs or reductions in service levels, the town says.
Known as the REV it Up campaign, the town says it had a goal to improve operational efficiency and effectiveness of services for residents and businesses, and to better support staff.
Over the past three months, StrategyCorp representatives had 82 one-on-one interviews, focus groups and workshops with town staff.
That led to more than 150 different improvement opportunities from across the organization that can be implemented over time, of which 80 were offered up directly by Newmarket staffers through an internal website.
Mayor John Taylor said the process has provided the town with some “really exciting opportunities for the future”.
“Our staff engaged exceptionally at a high level and it speaks to the corporate culture here and, frankly, the courage to engage in this so fully,” Taylor said during Monday’s council workshop on the subject. “This is a discovery process about where you can do better, and that takes courage, openness and a willingness to embrace the continuous improvement mantra.”
The town’s community services commissioner, Ian McDougall, said the administrative and service delivery review represents “a new start line vs a finish line”.
The audit report identified 18 key initiatives that, if undertaken by the town, would save $1.9 million to $2.6 million over seven years, increase productivity and reduce future costs, and provide $300,000 to $350,000 in new revenues.
Some of those initiatives include:
- Collaborating with other fire services in York Region at the recruitment stage to save resources and staff time;
- Use the Administrative Monetary Penalty System (AMPS), a digitized adjudication process for issuing bylaw infraction tickets in-house rather than through the already overburdened court system, for all bylaw-related tickets not just parking enforcement;
- Implement a 4 per cent municipal accommodation tax on hotels and/or short-term rental accommodations;
- Conduct a thorough organizational review of the town’s structure and capabilities, with a view to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the town’s structure. This could yield significant efficiency opportunities and identify resources that could be allocated to higher-value and higher-priority activities. This would not result in layoffs, but instead reallocate resources;
- Update townwide technology and electronic records management systems and;
- Stop relying on staff from water and wastewater services to support the road division in its winter maintenance activities. Newmarket is an outlier in its use of water and wastewater staff to support the town’s winter road maintenance work. On Dec. 2, 2019, nine of the 12 water and wastewater staff were unable to attend the day shift. Five of these staff were legally unable to attend their shift because of all-night winter road maintenance work. A very similar situation occurred four days later in which one staff member was able to do water and wastewater work. This is a common occurrence that makes workload planning extremely difficult. In 2014, the town received a non-compliance related to water quality sampling. This was because staff were performing winter maintenance.
Chief administrative officer Jag Sharma said as soon as early January 2020, recommendations on what initiatives to pursue should come before council for consideration.
Newmarket resident and council watcher Darryl Wolk said the audit exercise appears to be worth the effort.
“There are good suggestions that came from the staff and the scope of the exercise did not include layoffs or potential service reductions,” Wolk said. “It is a very detailed set of recommendations that go deep into town operations. From what I read in the report, it seems StrategyCorp and Newmarket town staff did a good job putting forward many positive ideas to find tangible efficiencies that should be considered for implementation.”To read the REV it Up report, visit here.