Oliver embarking on core services review

Independent review will look at possible ways to reduce municipal costs

The Town of Oliver is moving forward with a plan to conduct a core services review.

A resolution discussed during a closed-door meeting on Jan. 30 was brought forward to the public in council chambers on Monday calling for staff to investigate the cost for an independent core services review to be performed in 2012 and find potential consultants.

“We kept it closed primarily because we didn’t want to cause any angst with the union negotiators. We didn’t want to make it a negotiation issue,” said Mayor Ron Hovanes. “Now that we have settled the contract, we thought we need to remove this from closed and let the community know this is the direction we are going.”

Last week, municipal workers in Oliver ratified a new four-year agreement with the town. Hovanes said council got the message during the election that the community wants them to be fiscally prudent and responsible and they are following through with that.

“It’s not that council is looking to cut our workforce or services, we just thought we need to have an arm’s length look at how we are doing business and see if we are in line with best practices of communities of similar size,” said Hovanes.

The recommendations that come to council from the core services review are not binding, reminded Hovanes. He said communities of similar size, Summerland and Osoyoos, have also gone through the core services review process without the “harsh” recommendations going ahead as was the case in Penticton. In 2010, Penticton followed recommendations from its core services review cutting spending by 0.5 per cent and trimming staff budgets by 10 per cent.

“We are dealing with tax dollars and there is a huge degree of responsibility and trust within the community that you are going to spend those dollars wisely,” said Hovanes.

Oliver will be setting their budget for the year within the next few weeks, after that Hovanes said staff will be putting out the core services review to competitive bid. He hopes that a consultant would be identified within 30 to 40 days after that. The Oliver mayor said he hopes bringing the resolution forward does not cause any angst.

“This is not our intent, to cause any panic,” said Hovanes, when asked what municipal staff will think of the review.

Hovanes said council wants the review to be completed sometime in 2012 so if there are recommendations or potential changes that council wants to undertake they can be completed before the next budget cycle.