Cuts will not affect service, staff say

Dunedin City Council staff are confident service levels will not suffer, despite trimming more than half a million dollars a year from the transportation operations budget.

The annual saving was the result of a rejig of council roading contracts, including general, cycleway, footpath maintenance and street cleaning work, due to take effect on July 1.

The rejig resulted in an annual saving for the council of $507,600, and Mayor Dave Cull said it represented a saving on the council's existing level of service.

However, several other councillors questioned whether the reduced spend would mean a drop in service levels - something the council has strived to avoid despite its efficiency drive.

Cr Colin Weatherall said he was ''concerned'' the reduced spend came at a time when some basic walkways in the city were not properly maintained.

Cr John Bezett also questioned the move, wondering what gave council staff confidence a drop in service levels would not result.

Council city operations general manager Tony Avery said the view was based on advice from contractors and discussions with council transportation operations staff.

Savings could be achieved by repackaging the work, allowing improved scheduling of work by contractors, as well as greater certainty for contractors, without affecting service levels.

The saving was part of last-minute budget changes proposed for the 2013-14 draft annual plan, which identified savings in some areas worth slightly more than $1 million, as well as smaller cost increases in other areas.

The net result was $674,300 in savings available to be allocated, which, if saved, could lower the proposed 4% rates increase to 3.4%, council financial planner Carolyn Howard told councillors yesterday.

In addition, savings of $490,000 had been found in the footpath resurfacing budget, and $88,600 in the art in public places budget, from the 2012-13 year.

Other than reducing rates, the money could be used to further accelerate debt repayments, or be channelled into another ''invest to save'' project, she said.

A report outlining the options in more detail would be considered by councillors today.

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