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City under review to save money

Coun. Bob Spiers

The city of Vernon was going to burn through its cash if a core services review wasn't implemented, says a city councillor.

"We need to make our financial situation sustainable," says Coun. Bob Spiers. 
Vernon has contracted the firm KPMG to get to the bottom of the city's money meltdown. The firm will offer an unbiased review of the city's operations and service delivery. 
"They offer an external set of eyes," says Spiers, noting the city hasn't ever had a review like this before. He believes there was an operational review done in the 1990's, but says it was conducted internally. 
Spiers says this type of review should occur every five years, but Mayor Rob Sawatzky disagrees. 
"What you're trying to do is have an objective, fact-based review that allows you to set long term, sustainable goals," says Sawatzky. He says the need for numerous reviews year after year reflects poor management. 
Spiers says the city was in a position where it either had to raise taxes or conduct a review to refresh its services and operations. 
"But we don't want to raise taxes," says Spiers. 
KPMG recently submitted the Phase 1 report, which lays out the project objectives and timeline. The report was presented to council recently, and not everyone felt good about it. 
Some councillors took issue with the jurisdictions KPMG had chosen for comparison with Vernon. They included Campbell River, Kamloops, Kelowna, Penticton and Mission—areas some councillors felt were simply too large for comparison with Vernon. 
"Politicians have the right to have their say," says Sawatzky, adding that KPMG has been directed to include jurisdictions more relevant to the area, like Salmon Arm. 
The city says the review is being conducted for the people of Vernon, and that public input will be highly valued. Public input sessions will be held in the new year, and KPMG encourages the community to send feedback and suggestions to them directly. 
"Public input is the reason we're doing the core services review," says Sawatzky, adding that KPMG will determine how much weight will be given to public suggestions in the final report. 
"There will be an analysis of the validity of the suggestions," he says. 
Sawatzky says the city's role in the process is very minimal. 
"Our role comes when we get the results," he says. 
The final report is expected to come in March. 
—Charlotte Helston

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