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"I think its time for us to start trimming down the fat"

Would going 'Lean' help the city reduce its budget?
Dubeau Dislikes Deal
Councillor Rick Dubeau. Andrew Autio for TimminsToday

This week budget discussions for 2017 began at city hall, with each member of council putting forth their initial requests for inclusion in the 2017 budget. However, Councillor Rick Dubeau proposed a two-per-cent overall budget reduction, which equates to approximately $1.5 million dollars.

Dubeau suggested the city take notice of an initiative in the city of Oshawa, east of Toronto

"The city of Oshawa has tried a new program. It's called Lean Six Sigma," said Dubeau.

Lean Six Sigma is a methodology of techniques and tools that improve business performance. It is common in the private sector, especially in manufacturing, but has been applied by some municipalities.

"The Lean approach can offer local governments a different way of thinking, with an effective, structured methodology for creating sustainable change both culturally and operationally. It can be a path to improving on services, costs, and pride of municipal staff" read Dubeau from a document.

Dubeau said he spoke with the Mayor of Oshawa (John Henry) who told him that his a been a very beneficial program in that city.

"They've become much more efficient in what they do. Quite simply, they know where their employees are at any given time," and added "If this is something we could look at, I'd like council to investigate that," said Dubeau.

CAO Joe Torlone was asked by Mayor Steve Black if the city has ever used the Lean process.

"No we haven't, but I am familiar with it. The former CAO in Peterborough has it as well, so I can get the information that's required quite readily," said Torlone.

Council voted unanimously to include a report on the Lean Six Sigma training system.

Dubeau re-iterated his request for the overall reduction which he said was a 'more than attainable' goal.

"I'm proposing that we ask staff to come back with a two-per-cent cut overall. Some departments may not be able to do it all, some may be able to do more, and I think we have to look at it as a whole," citing the city's high mill rate.

"I think its time for us to start trimming down the fat," said Dubeau.

"Yes I am asking for costing on the Lean approach, but the Lean approach has been proven to save money, so this will be cost-effective going forward, not just in the short term but in the long term."

Black said he was familiar with the Lean process himself, as it was used at Kidd Operations, one of his former employers. 

"I would agree the Lean process may provide some opportunities, I don't know that you're going to see an immediate impact, because we'd need to go implement the program which will take some time to begin with," said Black.

He said that there could be some complications in order to reach the $1.5 million dollar reduction.

"We all know hydro rates are going up, and they are going to continue to go up. Salaries and collective agreements are going up. Then if council adds all of our items into the puzzle as well and then says 'come back at a two percent reduction' there's not a lot of ways to get there," said Black.

Voting in favour of asking city staff to present their budgets with the reduction were Councillors Dubeau, Joe Campbell, Mike Doody, and Walter Wawrzaszek. Councillors Noella Rinaldo and Andre Grzela voted against. Councillors Pat Bamford and Andrew Marks were absent. 

All budget presentations coming forward will likely be scrutinized based on the goal of a two percent reduction overall.