Today, incumbent Mayoral candidate Christian Provenzano highlighted his and City Council’s positive record on improving affordability for city residents. The Mayor also called attention to the many cost-savings initiatives that have moved forward during the term.
“Responsible spending was a central theme in my 2014 campaign,” said Christian Provenzano. “Over the past term, with the assistance of City Staff, we have made sound financial decisions and implemented many cost-saving measures that have reduced the municipal burden for residents of Sault Ste. Marie.”
Independent third-party reports show that the City of Sault Ste. Marie has been managing its finances well. A look at the annual BMA Municipal Study shows how improvements have been made in affordability.
For instance, in 2017 BMA study determined that:
· Sault Ste. Marie has the third-lowest residential property taxes amongst surveyed cities with a population between 30,000 and 100,000;
· property tax as a percentage of average household income has improved to 3.6 per cent (down from 3.8 per cent in 2014);
· the total municipal burden (municipal property tax and municipal water cost) is 4.5 per cent of household income (down from 4.8 per cent in 2014).
“We can see tangible, objective evidence that our actions have led to improvements in affordability,” said Provenzano. “We’ve worked hard to decrease the municipal burden both by working to keep the tax levy low and by decreasing water costs.”
In 2015, City Council under the leadership of Mayor Provenzano voted to decrease the sewer surcharge collected by the PUC from 100 per cent of the water rate to 62 per cent—the lowest level in over 30 years. As a PUC board member, Mayor Provenzano also worked to restrain increases in the PUC’s water rates. The combined effect of these action meant that the typical residential water user in Sault Ste. Marie paid less for their municipal water/wastewater in 2017 than they did in 2014.
In addition to immediate savings, Mayor Provenzano points to decisions made this term that will create savings in future years. Of these, one of the most noticeable changes for residents has been the switchover to LED streetlights.
Provenzano said, “The change to energy-efficient, environmentally friendly LED streetlights was accomplished at no cost to taxpayers. When the financing for the project is paid off in a few years’ time, the decreased energy and maintenance costs will be approximately $900,000 each year.”
As another example of forward thinking, Council made the decision to relocate one of its Seniors Centres from an old, inaccessible and functionally limited building to the new and accessible Northern Community Centre—a far more appropriate space that provides many more opportunities for events and activities.
“With these decisions, we have charted a path of fiscal prudence and better sustainability,” said Provenzano. “We are moving programs out of buildings that are old, inadequate, and costly to maintain and into new facilities that are fully-accessible and more energy-efficient. We’re also moving away from single-use buildings to multi-use buildings that can accommodate a much greater range of programs and services. This helps to make our City operations much more efficient and decreases our real estate and maintenance footprint which helps to lower costs.”
Mayor Provenzano also highlights many of the administrative changes that have been implemented to improve how the City budgets and spends.
“Over the course of the term, we completed a full spending review. We also moved up our budgeting period to take place earlier, before the start of the next fiscal year. With the budget completed earlier, Councillors can provide input that is more meaningful, staff members have more time to plan operations, and tenders can go out earlier and projects can begin sooner—which helps to save money. We’ve also adopted a formal surplus policy that will ensure that any operational surpluses are used responsibly and City managers are now using vacancy management and job gapping to help control payroll costs.”
“We certainly have more work to do. Our community has a lot of seniors and residents on fixed incomes. We need to continue to do our best, every day, to make sure we minimize everyone’s municipal costs as best we can. I am committed to continue the good work we started this term.”