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Should the Sault trust Doug Ford to find the fat at City Hall?

Province wants us to trim four cents from every city tax dollar
20180501-Doug Ford visits Sault-DT-01
Doug Ford at The Water Tower Inn, May 1, 2018. Darren Taylor/SooToday

Sault Ste. Marie City Council will be asked Monday to decide whether to take up Premier Doug Ford's offer to pay for a third-party audit of municipal finances.

Al Horsman, the city's chief administrative officer, will ask councillors to apply for $50,000 to $75,000 under the province's Audit and Accountability Fund, intended to identify savings of four cents on the dollar.

On May 21, the premier announced he would provide $7.35 million to large urban municipalities and district school boards for audits that will identify potential savings while maintaining front-line services.

"By providing resources through the Audit and Accountability Fund, the government is empowering school boards and municipalities to work towards the shared goal of returning the province to fiscal balance while making sure vital programs and services are maintained," a provincial news release stated.

However, Horsman has reservations about that line about restoring Ontario's fiscal balance.

"It is not clear what is intended in this process, but it would be hoped that any municipal savings identified in this process not be offset by reductions in other provincial funding sources, e.g. OMPF [Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund  the province's main general assistance grant to municipalities]," Horsman says in a report to Mayor Provenzano and councillors.

"To date, staff officials at Ministry of Municipal Affairs have been unable to clarify if this interpretation is accurate."

At a finance committee meeting this week, Shelley Schell, the city's chief financial officer, said the new money would be a "nice next step" to work currently being done for the city by KPMG LLP to develop a municipal reference model.

Horsman is recommending that the expanded audit work be sole-sourced to KPMG.

"It doesn't cost us anything. There's money available," Ward 4 councillor Marchy Bruni told the finance committee.

Brant gets promoted

In other news, councillors are expected to appoint Brant Coulter next week as the city's newest bylaw enforcement officer and property standards inspector.

The position was posted internally. Coulter was previously intake clerk in the city's building division.

Monday's City Council meeting will be livestreamed on SooToday starting at 4:30 p.m.