The recent restructuring at Municipal Hall in Lake Country has brought some controversy and questions. Controversy is pretty common in local government and it is part of what we do. We understand it and we deal with it.

Questions are important in a democracy because people want to know and need to make decisions based on facts.

With respect to the Business Systems Review Lake Country has undertaken recently, I wish to provide some information that hopefully will clarify a few things.

First off, the Council prior to this one, which I will name Council 1 and was in term from 2008 to 2011, authorized the review of Lake Country Business Systems unanimously. This was done in the Fall of 2011. The current Council, which I will name Council 2, approved the recommendations of the first and second phase of the review unanimously as well. They also approved authorization to proceed with the third and last phase unanimously (the actual recommendations, which were discussed at the beginning of June, were not approved unanimously but by a large majority of Council). So we have two Councils that understand the need for a change of direction in the way we do business. There are a few specific reasons why we need a different organization in the 21st century:

Create a "Can Do" culture, one of assistance and solution seeking to help taxpayers, residents and developers/investors. We have been saying this for about five years now and it is getting better and better;
Create a solid infrastructure program to deal with water lines, sewage, roads and other municipal infrastructure properly. This is a huge issue in Lake Country and the rest of Canada, and we have been working on this for the last four years as well;
Minimize the impact of costs to the taxpayers by fostering internal optimization of resources. Our budgets have been focusing on two things: inflation and better infrastructure.
The various phases of the review have addressed these issues by:

Streamlining operations and processes, especially in the area of planning and development. Timing for processing land use applications has been cut to about half of the time we used to spend on them. In fact, Lake Country has the fastest application process in the region. And that is just one example.
Focusing on strategic priorities actually set by Council at the beginning of the term. For instance, the two Councils I have worked with have clearly indicated that the top priority is to develop Main Street through a proactive Community News plan. So Council created an Economic Planning & Development Commission and authorized the hiring of an Community News Manager for the District to directly deal with Lake Country's needs. This has begun bearing fruits as one development application was completed successfully a couple of years ago and a much larger one is going to be discussed at the next Council meeting on July 15th. This was possible because our Ec Dev Manager is constantly promoting Lake Country and contacting potential investors. We couldn't do that if we left it to the Central Okanagan Community News Commission which has a more regional focus.
Saving money for infrastructure projects: in 2010 we could only spend $300,000 from property taxes on capital projects, in the last two years we have doubled that amount to $600,000 because of the savings from the first review. The annual capital expense for roads in 2010 was a meager $70,000. Because of the savings we were able to raise that number to $450,000 in the last two years.
I can also add that:

This may be new to Lake Country but restructuring and change have become part of local government in BC and Canada. Times are changing. We cannot do business like we did 20 years ago. It is not by adding staff when needed but by being strategic about it.
The District is now equipped to deal with the serious challenges we are facing in the community and in society in general. We constantly receive positive feedback and comments from people requesting services and developers that deal with us. We are proud of the service our staff provide to all our customers. They are the best professionals.
I truly recognize those who have left the District. They are excellent professionals that have provided outstanding service to the District and the community. We feel for them and we find it very difficult to implement these business decisions. The good thing is that the majority of them have found new jobs and continue to be engaged in their professional endeavours and I know those who are leaving us this time will do the same.
There are also some questions about the number of people that left as a result of these reviews.

A number of positions were eliminated and some were added or modified. However, after doing all this, the District has 9 Full Time positions and 1 Part Time position less than when we started the review. Most of these were management positions. This means that the District has had, and will have, savings from these eliminated positions which Council has mostly redirected to pay for infrastructure works mainly roads and transportation. As I mentioned before, in 2010 we could only spend $300,000 from property taxes on capital projects, in the last two years we have doubled that amount to $600,000 because of the savings from the first review. The annual capital expense for roads in 2010 was a meager $70,000. Because of the savings we were able to raise that number to $450,000 in the last two years.

Someone questioned why we have eliminated a building inspector position. First of all, the position will be replaced with a Plan Checker so there is still assistance for the Building department. There are two reasons for this change: first the number of building inspections has decreased substantially in the last five years. We are seeing a trend of increase but still too slow to justify two full time building inspectors. This is also linked to the fact that the building inspectors do the plan checking. This is somewhat of an anomaly as many other jurisdictions keep the two functions separate. We have long felt that one single individual doing plan checks and inspections was taxing and distracting. This allows each employee to focus on their designated task. We had a few plan checking issues that could have caused some problems, however we were able to make appropriate corrections. This will improve our record.

Are there any costs associated with all this? Yes, of course. Severances from the 2012 jobs elimination were paid and I am not at liberty to disclose those costs because of confidentiality agreements with the individuals that have left. These costs were all paid in salary continuance so the savings began to take effect gradually some in 2013 and the rest in 2014 and are reflected in the budget. The budget tax increase for 2014 was not due to severance paid but to inflationary costs and additional capital money for the Bottom Wood Lake Road project.

The 2014 severances are still being negotiated but the full extent of the savings will be felt between 2015 and 2016.

Some may question the ability and capacity to continue to provide services to the community. Changes are made with community service in mind and we do have enough staff to handle current operations. If Lake Country experienced further intense growth similar to what was experienced prior to 2008, which has not happened in the last five years, Council would have to consider reviewing capacity within the organization to adjust to the demands created by the new growth and increased revenue flow. So I can say that right now we are as lean as we can be and so I am not expecting any further changes for some time and Council has agreed on this point. As I just mentioned, strong new growth may trigger capacity needs that will have to be dealt with as they arise. We hope this happens as we are putting a lot of effort in to attracting new development and investment in the community. We are already seeing some signs of this. It would be a nice problem to have.

The restructuring that has taken place will reduce the overall management employee costs leaving more dollars for roads and infrastructure improvements into the future. There is no question that there is cost associated with this but the benefits are important for the community and will have a lasting beneficial effect. I am sad that people have to leave to accomplish this and we fully recognize the great contribution they made to the community. However, business and business models are different today and we need to move forward with the new times.