Puslinch discussing service efficiencies review

ABERFOYLE – KPMG director Bruce Peever spoke to Puslinch councillors on Sept. 18 about operational services efficiency for Wellington County and member municipalities.

Peever said “the aim is to identify creative and innovative solutions that are realistic and practical for implementation to achieve greater efficiency and cost savings in service delivery.”

The project began on July 12 and is to be completed and submitted to municipalities by Nov. 29.

Councillor Jessica Goyda said she is pleased with the projects.

“As much as we as a municipality are already doing more with less, I see this as an opportunity for each municipality to share the expertise of other municipalities,” said Goyda.

“I think that type of collaborate effort is the way of the future.”

She asked if the study addresses the potential of shared services.

Peever stated this is one option being considered.

He added “all municipalities within the county operate on lean budgets. The services provided are required under legislation or are essential services.”

At the same time, he believed there are significant opportunities to share services among municipalities.

Councillor John Sepulis asked for a breakdown of Puslinch taxes.

Finance director Mary Hasan said based on the 2019 tax rate bylaw, about 59 per cent of tax revenue is directed to the county, 16% to the township and 25% to education.

Sepulis raised concern that Puslinch represents only eight per cent of Wellington County’s population but pays  15% of the taxes. He wanted to know what the typical tax distribution is.

CAO Patrick Moyle said there are a number of factors involved, including land base, population and the type of services provided. He said in Caledon the local share of the tax bill is about 46%, while the region gets about 38%.

Sepulis then asked which county services the township does not use.

Moyle noted a number of services provided by the county, such as public housing and social services, tend to be expensive.

Sepulis contended there appears to be a disparity in the amount Puslinch pays compared to other lower tier municipalities in Wellington.

He asked if the study considers the disparity and said perhaps the county could pick up some services the township currently contracts out to make up for it.

Peever said the issue could be raised.

Sepulis also asked if the study involved members of the public. Peever said the steering committee includes CAOs and potentially other staff as required.

Mayor James Seeley sees the potential for some efficiencies in township “soft” services.

Seeley said the only way to increase the local share of the tax bill would be a result of the township increasing its local spending, not the county reducing its portion.

Yet he added he understands the concerns raised by Sepulis.

“Because we are paying a bigger piece of the pie perhaps we should be given more consideration regarding soft services,” he said.

Moyle noted that since starting his position in Puslinch, “I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the level of cooperation with the county.”

He noted the county provision of planning services, as well as sourcewater protection, as examples.

Moyle said the county appears willing to discuss more ways it can provide service to municipalities.

“The goal is to become more efficient, provide better service at less cost,” he said.