On Tuesday afternoon, City Council will consider a motion to investigate the need for continuous improvement at City Hall. The Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce (SSMCOC) strongly supports the adoption of a continuous improvement process, suggesting that it should in fact be an ingrained necessity for any municipality in a world where there are significant financial and regulatory constraints that demand efficiency to ensure tax-payer value.
SSMCOC CEO, Rory Ring notes that “outside of the public sector [government], we’ve grown accustomed to steadily falling prices for better products and services provided by the private sector. In one major sector of the economy however, prices seem to just keep rising, and without a commensurate increase in performance… and that’s government.”
In the wake of the financial shortfalls and constraints facing most governments around the world, leaders are faced with the challenge to ‘do more with less’. Unfortunately, typical cost reduction exercises inevitably result in a difficult trade-off between price and performance. Breaking this seemingly unavoidable trade-off will require leaders to look at the public sector in a whole new way.
Ring continues, noting that “while our municipality faces budgetary short falls and tax revenue disruptions, taxpayers have been presented with a very unappetizing choice between higher taxes or radically curtailed public services… or, ever more often, both. A way to offset or avoid this challenge is to use innovation and concepts of continuous improvement to create public programs at radically reduced costs without slashing services; a way to break the seemingly unavoidable trade-off between paying more and getting less.”
In an effort to make Sault Ste Marie competitive in the global economy, government must look to relieve the financial burdens it places on the economic generators, job creators and investors that build economic prosperity for the community.
Commercial and industrial occupied properties are where much of the new wealth and many of the new jobs are generated in this community. Therefore, to tax commercial and industrial properties at much higher rates than competing jurisdictions would have a negative impact on the local economy; these are observations drawn directly from the Chamber’s recent tax report and the report from the Mayor’s Office.”
Ring adds, “this presents an opportunity for the City of Sault Ste Marie to seize this moment and bring forward a possible tax-fairness solution on behalf of local commercial and industrial property owners over a five-year period, reducing rates to be more competitive and then passing on that savings to the residential rate payers as the assessment base and jobs are created.”
The solution requires a shift that sees the organizations change from focus on outputs to efficiency and outcomes that add value for all rate payers.
The Chamber feels that the key to radically reducing costs, while maintaining or even improving services, is disruptive innovation. Creating the conditions for disruption will require policymakers to view government through a different lens. Instead of seeing only endless programs and bureaucracies, the myriad responsibilities and customers of government can be seen as a series of markets that can be shaped in ways to find and cultivate very different and ultimately more effective, less expensive ways of supplying public services.
The consideration before council this evening is a step in the right direction and should be taken most seriously. Above all, if adopted it sends a message to the industrial and commercial tax payer, and to the global business community, that now and into the future, we are serious about creating a Sault Ste. Marie that is “open for business”.