Program Changes - 2016 Budget Summary
The 2016 levy operating budget was prepared by taking a balanced approach to fostering an environment for economic prosperity. The budget presented represented a disciplined approach to spending while investing in strategic areas and focusing on new ways of doing business.
Staff undertook a line-by-line review of each budget item, filtered non-mandatory programs and determined which program changes to bring forward for Council consideration. The following is a summary of the program changes approved by the Budget Review Committee of the Whole on Nov. 26 / Dec. 3, 2016.
Asset Management Plan
The program change request will allow the Region to retain a consultant to assist in the accumulation of data, analysis, and preparation of the plan, as well as develop methodologies to help incorporate it into the way the Region budgets and plans for capital expenditures. Both rate and levy programs will benefit from a consolidated Asset Management Plan.
Niagara to GTA Phase 2 Study
Regional Council has identified the Provincial commitment to planning for a NGTA corridor in 2016 as one of the focused projects under the Moving People and Goods segment of the Council priorities.
Expenditures are required for carrying out studies for the assessment of the environmental factors in the area of interest identified in the NGTA East corridor that could be used in part towards the route selection process (NGTA Phase 2 Study). The factors are mainly the natural, social, economic and cultural. In assessing the cultural factors, the studies would focus on the stage 1 and 2 archeological assessment. Conversations have occurred between senior MTO and Regional staff.
To avoid any potential major impacts to budgets in future years, we are recommending that Council continue to provide for funding for the long-term intermunicipal transit concept plan presented in PW 92-2014. This would not result in any program changes in 2016, and provides flexibility for Council in future years to work with local area municipalities should financial support for intermunicipal transit be requested.
This plan would be revised pending the outcome of the work of the cities of St. Catharines, Welland and Niagara Falls.
The addition of Cyber and Privacy insurance coverage to Niagara Region's insurance program would provide protection to the organization against claims brought by third parties for losses associated with cyber-attack as well as protection to Niagara Region against the costs associated with managing the privacy crisis (including notification, forensic investigation, business interruption, crisis management, data restoration, cyber extortion).
Taxpayer Relief Reserve Funding
In the report, it was recommended that the $3.31 million transfer be used to offset the operating budget over a four year period starting in 2015. This funding allocation will gradually offset the impact of a $1.7 million transfer from this reserve budgeted in 2014 to support more sustainable operations as follows:
Broadband Initiative (SWIFT)
SWIFT will be an open access system equitably available to all providers and users in the region. Service providers will build, own, and operate the network and pay modest wholesale and retail residuals to SWIFT in exchange for the upfront two-thirds build cost subsidy they receive from SWIFT and our federal and provincial government partners.
Through this mechanism, it is the objective of SWIFT to connect virtually every resident, farmer, business, and public sector organization to fibre optics by 2040 and thereby contributing to the resurgence of the regional economy everyone needs.
When the initial build phase of the project is completed in 2020 fibre optic access will be available in about 350 communities across Niagara Region and Southwestern Ontario to a population density as low as four person per square kilometre.
Grow within opportunities include areas around Brock University, Niagara College and other communities. In partnership with local area municipalities, this project would work on a series of district plans to "grow within".
This is a competitive issue for Niagara - other communities in the GTHA and beyond (including Waterloo Region) are completing and implementing major growth projects for districts around key nodes such as colleges, universities, and hospitals. This funding will be used with local municipal support (in-kind) to complete secondary plans for growth in the key nodes. This work will provide certainty for development proposals and create a confident environment for investors.
Growth Strategy Projects
In 2016, 2017 and 2018, major work will be required to support these ongoing initiatives. The work includes:
Tourism in Niagara
This program would allow us to do a better job of promoting our existing tourist attractions and drawing tourists to new areas that have not been looked at as tourist areas in the past. It would increase jobs, investment opportunities and include a public sector support role. Some of the recommendations (listed in order of importance) for this program are:
Port Robinson Ferry
Ambulance Resource Enhancements (12 full time equivalents)
Call volumes have been escalating at unprecedented rates across the Region and response times increased as a result of emergency resource depletion. Council voted in 2014 to instate an additional two 24 hour ambulance crews which were fully implemented in November 2014 (per recommendation in report PHD 17-2014).
Staff was directed to report back in Q2 2015 on the impact of these additional resources and the potential need for further addition of two 24 hour ambulance crews plus two operations superintendents and two logistical support full time equivalents. The original request from staff was for two 24 hour ambulance crews however Council only approved including budget funds for one 24 hour ambulance crews as well as the logistical and operational supervisors.
The implementation of this program change as well as consideration of an additional ambulance crew was deferred pending the outcome of an EMS Master Plan that will assist in providing long term strategies and plans that will inform the service regarding the best approach to utilize emergency resources to meet the needs of the community and taxpayer.
Social Assistance and Employment Opportunities - Temporary to Permanent Staff (28 full time equivalents)
Niagara Region, under the Ontario Works Act (s.38, O.Reg. 136/98) is required to deliver the Ontario Works program. The program is heavily regulated, highly prescriptive, and constantly changing. Pursuant to the legislation and provincial directives, the Region is responsible for determining client eligibility for benefits and services, monitoring compliance and meeting contracted obligations. The Ontario Works program must also provide benefits and assistance to Ontario Disability Support Program clients.
Niagara's Ontario Works program is delivered by the Social Assistance and Employment Services Division of the Community Services Department. Under the leadership of Organizational Performance, a comprehensive and objective third party review of Social Assistance and Employment Opportunities staffing levels and spans of control has been undertaken. The results were presented at the Nov. 3, 2015 Public Health and Social Services Committee meeting.
The review recommends maintaining the 28 temporary positions, and making them permanent and adding 8.4 new full time equivalents. The addition of new full time equivalents in addition to the current 28 temporary full time equivalents will continue to keep Niagara at the low end of the range for comparator municipalities. At the high end of the range, Niagara would need to add more than 100 full time equivalents over and above the 28 temporary to permanent conversions proposed in this business case. Detailed rationale for both recommendations is provided in the third party report.
This budget business case addresses maintaining the 28 temporary positions as permanent; a second business case addresses the recommendation to increase staffing. Currently Social Assistance and Employment Opportunities' staffing complement is 218.6, which includes the 28 temporary full time equivalents, 3 temporary full time equivalents approved by Council to implement the Bend the Curve project, and 2 fully funded full time equivalents for the federal Local Immigrant Partnership.
Social Assistance and Employment Opportunities - New Permanent Staff (one full time equivalents)
Pursuant to the legislation and provincial directives, the Region is responsible for determining client eligibility for benefits and services, monitoring compliance and meeting contracted obligations. The Ontario Works program must also provide benefits and assistance to Ontario Disability Support Program clients.
Niagara's Ontario Works program is delivered by the Social Assistance and Employment Services Division of the Community Services Department.
The Data analyst will assist to address the pressing and ongoing need to have accurate and timely data to measure performance, service metrics and ensure that Social Assistance and Employment Opportunities' resources are effectively addressing and reducing a growing caseload (and policy support due to the anticipated program changes in Ontario Works legislation).
This position will help ensure the division has the foundation it needs to implement the "Bend the Curve" project. Bend the Curve is the project delivering on the Council strategic priority project to reduce caseload growth. This two year project will develop an business system to skills match clients to available jobs.
|Street Lighting Upload
Initiate a three year phase in program to assume the responsibility of street lighting within the Regional network as outlined in the Transportation Services Sustainability Review (PWA 82-2009). Currently the Region maintains 1,169 street lights and the municipalities maintain 5,947 street lights.
Public Realms Investments
In the past three years no funds have been available for public realm projects. Under the current public realm program one of the priority areas for funding is streetscaping, with consideration also given to facade improvement of municipal and institutional / not-for-profit buildings such as museums, libraries, and theatres. Preference is also given to projects which include heritage and / or public art components.
Public realm funding is subject to the following funding guidelines:
On a go-forward basis, the public realm funding will be focused on streetscaping associated with Regional Road projects within urban / downtown areas. Regional Roads in core areas have a significant impact on communities. Streets are a vital part of public open space systems, functioning as corridors for movement of pedestrians, cyclists, transit and vehicles. They also support social interaction, as well as influence business activities.
Well-designed streetscapes enhance the appearance, health and enjoyment of the urban landscape. Streetscapes are integral to supporting private development and investment; the streetscape program will give Niagara a competitive advantage in terms of development quality and investment.
|Expedited development approval (one full time equivalent)
To fund the one staff position at a manager's level to maintain service levels and leadership of the Development Planning Division responsible for development application review for each of the 12 local area municipalities, in addition to other responsibilities.
Niagara Airports Review
Further motions were also approved that directed the Regional CAO to meet with staff of the local municipalities to jointly review and prepare the necessary background information and options for Regional Council, and report back to the Transportation Strategy Steering Committee in the first quarter of 2016.
In order to properly deliver on these directives, reviews of an industry and business model for which staff do not have all of the necessary knowledge are required. As such, funding for external consulting expertise is being requested through this business case.
Staff will take on numerous aspects of the reviews through internal resources. The consultant will be asked to look at current and future potential aviation and business opportunities for the two airports, as well as each airports' ability to capitalize on those opportunities with consideration of items such as land, infrastructure, environmental and industry factors, and aviation regulations.
The 2016 Levy Operating budget identified a number of risks including:
|Subtotal remaining to be considered||5,142,958||4,761,076|
|Total program change and non-mandatory adjustments approved||6,859,458||6,050,000|
|Percentage impact on the levy (net of Social Assistance and Employment Opportunities upload)
|Net levy impact||0.00%|