City Council in Brief - March Edition

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In brief, here are seven items of public interest that were discussed during the March 2019 City Council meeting. The full agenda can be accessed here

Northeast Swale Working Group Update

The Northeast Swale Working Group (Swale Working Group) was established to assess, prioritize, and direct discussions regarding issues that have been raised relating to the Northeast Swale (Swale). I have been a member of this group from its inception, of which nine issue-focused meetings were held to review and assess the various issues. All issues raised have been reviewed by the group and have been addressed or have plans in place to address them.

A summary of the great working group meetings can be found as agenda item 8.1.6 from pages 60 - 83 found here.

The Standing Policy Committee on Planning, Development and Community Services also requested a follow-up report on what resources are required to ensure there is dedicated leadership from the City to convene interested parties to set up the best possible management of the Swale moving forward.

Photo Speed Enforcement

City Council voted that the expansion strategy of Photo Speed Enforcement be endorsed; and that the projects submitted to the Provincial Traffic Safety Fund be endorsed.

According to Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI), “The primary objectives of the ASE pilot program were to deter speeding, and to reduce speed-related collisions and resulting injuries and deaths. The overarching goal was “zero speeding tickets, zero crashes.” An evaluation of the PSE pilot shows that the number of speeding violations went down in both high-speed locations and school zones, resulting in fewer collisions and injuries. Survey results also showed public support for the program.”

In December 2014, the PSE pilot program began in Saskatoon at the following locations:

  • Circle Drive locations: Airport Drive, Circle Drive South Bridge, Preston Avenue, Taylor Street, and 108th Street
  • School Zone locations: St. Michael Community School, École Henry Kelsey School, Brownell School, École Canadienne-Francaise, Mother Teresa School and Silverspring School.

The program has now ended and on September 17, 2018, the Government of Saskatchewan announced the Automated Speed Enforcement program would continue under the name “Photo Speed Enforcement” (PSE) and would be expanded. A new Provincial Traffic Safety Fund was also created, to be funded through a portion of the revenues from the program.

In 2015 through 2017, the City has received on average $613,000 per year from the PSE program, which has been allocated to traffic safety initiatives. As the revenues from the pilot project are variable, the Administration accumulates the PSE program
revenues in the Traffic Safety Reserve, then provides City Council with a recommended list of project requests based on the reserve’s annual sufficiency. All of the projects improved traffic safety for the community. Unfortunately the program has changed the parameters of how revenue will be dispersed. Violations taking place in Saskatoon will no longer have those funds coming solely to Saskatoon for traffic safety improvements. Assuming no further PSE locations are added, it is expected that revenue to the City of Saskatoon will drop by 70%, from an average of $613,000 annually, dropping to an estimated $183,900 annually with the existing locations, thereby limiting our traffic safety improvements funding.

Through SGI's review, the PSE pilot positively impacted speeding behaviour (speed violation rates) at both the high-speed locations and school zones. The pilot project has had a positive impact on the frequency and severity of collisions, especially the targeted speed-related collisions (28 from highspeed locations and seven from school zones) resulting in an estimated 50 fewer injuries (40 from high-speed locations and 10 from school zones). 

2020/2021 Multi-Year Business Plan and Budget

This item outlined the Multi-Year Business Plan and Budget (MYBB) process for 2019. This report is also requesting City Council approval of the new MYBB Policy moving forward. The Business Plan and Budget process for 2020/2021 will follow a similar
process as in 2018. The proposed MYBB process will provide the appropriate governance and framework for the City’s first two-year MYBB in 2020/2021. The MYBB Policy and process will have several significant changes to current practices, including the introduction of remediation plans for forecasted budget overspends and only completing the formal budget document in the first year of the MYBB process. 

As part of the 2019 Business Plan and Budget process, many aspects of an MYBB cycle were piloted, including:

  • introduction of an indicative rate setting process;
  • administrative budgeting for multiple years; and
  • a corporate business planning process focusing on City Council’s Strategic Priorities.

These aspects are recommended to be continued as part of the City’s first MYBB. The proposed MYBB process for 2020/2021 is comprised of the following four key steps:

  • Step 1 – Develop the cost to maintain existing services such as expenditure growth, inflation and revenue estimates. 
  • Step 2 – Determine the property tax target. 
  • Step 3 – Develop Corporate Business Plans aimed at achieving City Council Priorities.
  • Step 4 – Incorporate the Business Plans into the Budget process. 

The new MYBB Policy formalizes the steps for the development and ongoing support of an MYBB process. The proposed MYBB Policy outlines the following:

  • overview of the Business Plan and Budget process;
  • establishment of service-based budgets that focus on service levels;
  • full-time equivalent/staffing guidance;
  • types of adjustments that will be allowable in mid-year cycles; and
  • guidance regarding corporate and departmental annual variances processes and requirement.

Greater details of the MYBB process can be found as agenda item 8.5.1 from pages 143 - 167 found here.

Active Transportation Implementation Plan

The Active Transportation (AT) Implementation Plan was endorsed, with the exception of the elements pertaining to the Downtown AAA Network, which is the subject of a future report to City Council; and that the Administration report back on the timing of implementation as part of the funding strategy.

The AT Plan identifies key directions and action items to improve active transportation facilities, policies and standards, support programs, and education and awareness initiatives over the next 30 to 40 years. The AT Plan contains 88 action items: 3 action items are complete, 45 action items are part of the Administration’s daily operations; 32 action items are currently underway;
and 8 action items are not yet started.

The implementation plan did not approve any funding for projects, but rather is used as a planning document and includes the following items:

  • A plan showing the 5-year and 10-year project list for the infrastructure expansion of the All Ages and Abilities (AAA) cycling network;
  • A plan showing the 5-year project list for the infrastructure expansion of the sidewalk network; and
  • An overview of the education, promotion operational program.

As part of the Transportation Master Plan, an Administrative report will be provided in the second half of 2019 that provides a
5 to 10-year financial plan that includes all types of transportation projects. The report will provide a list of prioritized projects, with current funding levels, funding gaps, and potential funding all identified. This report will provide the opportunity to compare active
transportation projects with other transportation-related projects such as Intelligent Transportation Systems, Neighbourhood Traffic Review permanent implementation, high-speed roadside safety, intersection improvements, etc. in a more objective
manner.

Furthermore, I successfully moved the following recommendation at the Standing Policy Committee on Environment, Utilities and Corporate Services: that at the time of receiving the funding plan as part of the Transportation Master Plan, the Administration provide options for accelerating phased-in funding for addressing missing sidewalks and curb ramps.

Greater details of the AT Implementation Plan can be found as agenda item 9.4.1 from pages 180 - 209 found here.

Curbside Organics Program

City Council approved a moderate phase-in of the organics program with an implementation date of 2023. This program addresses the waste funding deficit (1.53% mill rate impact) over 2020 and 2021 and then starts building up the funds for program implementation (2.4% mill rate impact) over 2021, 2022 and 2023. As such, 2023 is when the first year of curbside organics program will begin and garbage collection will change to bi-weekly. While my preference was to phase in the organics program to begin as soon as possible (i.e. 2021) I am pleased we are finally moving towards providing new waste diversion options for residents and rectifying the waste funding shortfall. It is estimated that for each year without an organics program, $1.1M to $1.6M in landfill airspace is consumed with materials that could be diverted. Currently, a 1% mill rate increase is equal to about $2.4M. As such, the cost air space at landfill annually ($1.1M to$1.6M) would equal 0.46% to 0.67% property tax impact, which would be the cost to status quo.  

In addition, this report provides information on opting out of organics programs, bans on organics in the landfill and black carts, and an option for expanding the current subscription green cart program. Impacts on landfill costs and diversion as a result of delays to the organics program are also included for consideration.

Council requested additional reporting on using the Federal Gas Tax for funding the entire cost of the capital project for the purchase of carts; additional Service Level Option of reducing pick up in the winter; options for current composters to opt out of the program; and provide an additional report at the appropriate time breaking down the costs of the waste funding shortfall and the costs of the organics program.

Special Needs Garbage Collection Service

I put forward a notice of motion, which was unanimously approved, which read “That the Administration report back with options and implications of special-needs collection services (waste, recycling and organics). As previously directed, Administration should engage with relevant stakeholders such as senior and disability services organizations as well as the Saskatoon Accessibility Advisory Committee to address accessibility needs as well as any updates required to the Special Needs Garbage Collection Service."

This was a recommendation unanimously supported by the Standing Policy Committee on Environment, Utilities and Corporate Services and supported by Council in November 2017.  Unfortunately when the waste utility decisions was rescinded, this direction for future reporting had been canceled as an unintended consequence of the rescinding motion. This came to my attention after working with a resident on an issue pertaining to the Special Needs Garbage Collection. I am happy to get the balling rolling again on expanding the Special Needs Garbage Collection, as this has been a growing need in our community.

Workplace Transformation

City Council approved the following motions:

  1. That City Council transfer its existing reporting responsibilities for the City Solicitor to the City Manager;
  2. That the Office of the City Solicitor become a department of the City of Saskatoon, reporting directly to the City Manager;
  3. That City Council request that the City Solicitor prepare the appropriate amendments to Bylaw No 8174, The City Administration Bylaw, 2003 to reflect the revised reporting relationship, and return the amended Bylaw to the April 29,2019 meeting of City Council; and
  4. That City Council direct the Administration to prepare a Council Policy that incorporates the protocols outlined in the body of this report.

In 2018, the City of Saskatoon started an extensive process to renew the organization in order to address these issues and respond to the changing dynamics of our community. This “Workplace Transformation” officially started with City Council’s appointment of a new City Manager in May 2018.

City Council and the City Manager both agreed that this Workplace Transformation will result in significant changes across the organization over the next few years. This will ensure that the City is in a better position to introduce new services and transform how it delivers existing services to its residents.

To accomplish this, another major step in this transformation process was completed in November 2018, with the implementation of a new organizational structure. This structural change resulted in some restructuring of departments and branches in the City. However, this Workplace Transformation did not end there. As part of this process, City Council was also interested in exploring the role of legal services at the City of Saskatoon. In other words, City Council wanted to know whether the existing Council – Solicitor reporting relationship still meets the needs of Council, the Administration and our citizens. It also wanted to know how other cities organized themselves and whether or not a new model may be beneficial to the City of Saskatoon. 

The review of the approaches in other cities found that they use different models than we do in Saskatoon, despite performing very similar functions. In fact, our review found that many cities use either a “department model” or a “branch model” when structuring legal services. After much study and deliberation, City Council approved that the City of Saskatoon use the department model for the delivery of internal legal services. This means that the City Solicitor’s primary direct reporting relationship will be to the City Manager. However, the City Solicitor will still provide legal advice and assistance to Council and its Committees. Other than this proposed modification to the reporting relationship, the primary duties of the City Solicitor and the City Solicitor’s staff will remain unchanged.

To foster a smooth transition to the new model, and to ensure the appropriate checks and balances are in place to allow for independent legal advice from the City Solicitor, the Governance and Priorities Committee is recommending that City Council direct the Administration to develop a Council Policy that reflects the following protocols:

  1. The Mayor and Councillors recognize the City Manager as their principal advisor and will expect a report or comment from the City Manager on all matters on the agenda;
  2. On matters of legal significance to the City (as determined by the City Manager and/or the City Solicitor) the Mayor and Councillors will expect to receive a legal briefing from the City Solicitor that is unfettered by the City Manager;
  3. On such legal matters, and out of courtesy, the City Solicitor will ensure that the City Manager is briefed in advance of City Council, except for those briefings that pertain to the employment of the City Manager (i.e., contractual/agreement matters). In this case, the legal briefing would flow directly to City Council.
  4. Where the City Manager believes that the City Solicitor may be in error, the City Manager may wish to provide Council with access to the advice of specialist legal counsel in the matter under discussion. Such independent advice, out of respect for the City Solicitor, should be made available as well to the City Solicitor.
  5. Notwithstanding the foregoing, there is nothing to prohibit the City Manager and City Solicitor from jointly determining that the Mayor and Councillors would benefit from receiving independent legal counsel. Such a report would flow to the Mayor and Councillors based on which branch the City initiated the request with advance copy and consultation with the other branch of the City. 

A bylaw and accompanying policy will come to City Council at a later date for approval, and at that time the changes will come into effect. 

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