Q: Do you support the continued investment in developing and modernizing the cities I.T. department, website revamp and online capabilities?
A: I fully support the growth of the IT capabilities of city hall. Not only will this help increase the transparency of decision making but will serve to help citizens, entrepreneurs, event planners, ect interact with the city in a more cost effective and timely manner.
I have had the opportunity to speak with event coordinators, small businesses and developers/site planners, all of whom would welcome streamlined online processes to expedite their applications and permit procedures through city hall. When city hall becomes modernized and is supported by a strong IT department, job functions currently carried out by city staff can and should be rendered obsolete through restructuring and attrition. Steps can be taken to develop and train core city staff to utilize new tools developed by IT which will allow for them to provide materials to streamline applications and processes for the public.
Personally, I believe hiring a crew of staff to the IT department based on simply the recommendations of a report was premature and the number of staff recruited (9 total) jumped the gun on our current needs. One of the key focuses of my platform is fiscal accountability and keeping tax rates stable. In order to keep the tax rate from inflating, it will he important to build any city staff in a rate as slow as functionally feasible and find positions/funds from attrition of staff positions.
The notion of re-inventing a department overnight and finding a way to pay for it on the backs of tomorrows taxpayers is not only foolish, it puts our city in financial insecurity.
In particular, the”modernization” of the downtown via “free wifi” provided by the city, an endeavor being proposed by this newly hired IT team, appears nothing more to be a “make work” project that will lead to our fixed taxpayer dollars being gambled on an outdated gimmick. (One that this team worked to develop in Strathroy before ‘reuniting’ at Sarnia city hall).
Overall, the current structure is creating a cost and paying for a solution we don’t yet have a need for. For this reason, I believe city council should have the opportunity to review proposed new city staff positions on an annual basis as well as review which retiring employees’ positions can be dissolved through attrition. Ballooning costs associated with city staff are a key factor in our city’s annual budget, a budget Councillors have been elected to manage in the best interest of the citizens.