by Colin Smith
Sturgeon County could potentially see hundreds of thousands in savings if it follows recommendations coming out of a review of its operations.
In May, Council received the report on an operational review of the County organization by the consulting firm MNP that began last summer.
In its report, MNP set out 48 recommendations for improving the County’s efficiency and effectiveness in achieving its strategic priorities. It also identified at least $1 million in savings that could be saved – said to be a conservative estimate, although that would require an estimated investment of $644,000, for a potential net savings of $356,000.
According to Mayor Alanna Hnatiw, the main focus of the review was to look at how efficient and effective the organization is in achieving the objectives outlined in the County’s strategic plan.
“Last year, Council requested an operational review of the organization to evaluate what’s working well and areas that need improvements,” stated Hnatiw. “The operation of Sturgeon County has developed over the last 100 years and Council felt it was time to direct Administration to have a third party review of our current operations.“
The review began with a high-level organizational review, then moved on to the examination of service areas identified as priorities.
These were five departments: business strategy, corporate communications, information services, engineering services, and transportation services, as well as the procurement and contract management functions that affect all departments.
Procurement is a major area where cost savings could potentially be made, indicated Reegan McCullough, Sturgeon County Chief Administrative Officer. But this is also an area in which investment would be required, so that change will depend on the budgetary process.
Transportation is another area that will be receiving close attention.
“Certainly we will be looking at how we can have quality roads in the County and how we can make best use of the dollars,” he said in an interview.
McCullough pointed out that the MNP report represents a “point in time” in the County’s operations and that some of the changes it recommends are already underway.
Of the 36 recommendations of the total 48 that are considered short-term, 12 have been initiated or completed and 18 can done over the next 12 months, while six require more analysis.
Hnatiw said the review also provided an opportunity for transparency and for residents to see how the County is comparing to other similar municipalities in terms of spending and taxation.
In the course of the review MNP researched municipalities including Parkland, Leduc County, Rocky View County, the City of Fort Saskatchewan, the City of St. Alberta and Grand Prairie County to arrive at a comparison.
It found that Sturgeon County’s budgeted spending and net muncipal taxes are below the mean of the comparable municipalities on a per capita basis.
The Sturgeon operating budget is $2,628 per capita versus the comparable muncipalities’ $3,215; operating budget is $1,302 per capita compared to $1,564; and net municipal taxes come in at $2,223 as opposed to $2,239.
“With limited resources and growing demands, municipalities have to be prudent to remain viable,” commented Hnatiw.
“The fact that Sturgeon County is below average in terms of capital spending, is information for consideration as we head into our next budget discussions. Knowing there needs to be a balance between spending, incurring debt and maintaining reserves while delivering services residents expect.”
In conducting the review, sought feedback from County staff through a survey and interviews, with anonymity was guaranteed. In the publically available versions of the report portions have been redacted.
Regular updates on the implementation of the MNP recommendations and other initiatives are to be provided by the Senior Leadership Team.
The report is available at www.sturgeoncounty.ca/mnp.