Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Working More Efficiently at the Municipal Level

Yesterday, I posted about how I believe that municipal employees should be paid fairly and that it was unreasonable to expect zero increases in property tax due to labour costs. I also believe that municipalities need to be mindful of the amount of staff needed to do existing jobs or new jobs, and look towards implementing innovative methods to accomplish tasks before simply hiring another person. One area that concerns me is the increasing cost of policing, mainly due to an increase in policing staffing levels. Is there a better, more efficient way to create safer communities? I believe there is.

I know that this is a hard one to do, but cost savings can be found by questioning why certain tasks are done for a desired outcome. I’ve managed several multimillion dollar, complex projects in my professional career and one of the major things I’ve noticed is that people don’t like changing processes even if there is a more efficient way to get a desired outcome. At a municipal level, one example of questioning a task could be as simple as looking at why the City pays someone to drive around a truck to water plants. You could go one step further and question why the City chooses plants that need watering in the first place. If the desired outcome is a beautiful downtown, is there another path to this desired outcome?

Another area to look at is if operating costs could be reduced by one-time capital projects. This could be something like having the City install its own data network to connect its facilities and out-of-planet equipment like traffic lights, water pumps, etc. I know from personal experience that hundreds of thousands of dollars per year can be saved by doing something like this.

Given that today pretty much anything can be connected to a network, I have to wonder if there are more efficient ways of managing municipal infrastructure. For example, wouldn’t it be good if the City could be alerted to a possible leak in a water main, so it could be repaired before a more costly water main breakage?

I'm certainly not a fan of underpaying people or cutting jobs that are needed, but I believe that there is more our local governments could be doing to make their operations even more efficient by questions work flows and by embracing 21st Century technology.

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