Replace people with robots at Saskatoon city hall? ‘Not just yet’

Posted on November 25, 2017 in ,
Source: http://thestarphoenix.com/news/local-news/replace-people-with-robots-at-saskatoon-city-hall-not-just-yet

Replace people with robots at Saskatoon city hall? ‘Not just yet’

The executive director of the North Saskatoon Business Association (NSBA) has yet to recommend replacing human beings with robots, but he wants city hall to seriously consider more automation.

Keith Moen has offered Saskatoon city council some advice for its 2018 budget talks, which start on Monday and are slated to last three days.

Among the recommendations is a call for city hall to focus more on reducing spending than raising more revenue and to consider saving money through automation. Robots performing city work is not that far-fetched, Moen said in an interview.

“Not just yet, but maybe one day,” he said. “With the autonomous vehicles that will be coming within the next decade or so, I think that there will be real opportunity for cities, particularly, to look at particular services they’re providing presently that might have that ability to go to an autonomous vehicle sort of component.”

The city’s budget includes seven full-time positions that were eliminated largely due to automation.

Some highlights from the NSBA’s submission:

TOO MUCH

The NSBA notes property tax increases in Saskatoon over the last few years have outpaced both inflation and economic growth. Despite better than expected economic growth of 3.6 per cent in 2017, that’s still well below both the 2017 property tax increase of 4.82 per cent and the projected 4.96 per cent hike in 2018. Property tax increases over the last five years have averaged more than five per cent.

LOOK HARDER

One of the overall themes of the NSBA submission was to focus on reducing spending rather than raising more revenue. The city has struggled to expand its revenue base and relies mainly on property taxes. Of the expected revenues for 2018, nearly 48 per cent come from taxes, 13.5 from user fees and 17.7 per cent from general revenues. The city’s budget documents point out the proposed 2.79 per cent increase in spending is below the target of growth combined with inflation of 3.52 per cent for 2018.

NOT FINE

The NSBA takes aim at a proposal to spend $245,000 on bylaw enforcement to try to address reduced parking enforcement revenues. This is a specific example of the NSBA’s focus on reducing spending, rather than trying to find ways to increase revenues. The NSBA says there is no indication this will improve parking for residents and pans the proposed spending.

‘RED FLAG’

Moen said some numbers from 2016 budget entries have raised a “red flag” with the NSBA. The city has been asked to investigate why some budget lines feature exactly the same budgeted figures as those detailing how much money was actually spent. The NSBA wants to make sure these numbers are right.

WHAT ABOUT POT?

The NSBA also wants to know whether the city has planned for extra spending to accommodate the legalization of cannabis. The federal government has set a date of July 1, 2018 to make recreational marijuana legal. The provincial government has yet to announce its plans to accommodate legal cannabis.

ptank@postmedia.com

twitter.com/thinktankSK

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