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9 interesting ways Calgary is shaving costs from its 2021 proposed budget

The City of Calgary rolled out its proposed mid-cycle budget adjustment Tuesday, and with it, $90 million in overall operating cost reductions.

We’ve pulled out nine of the 22 Solutions for Achieving Value and Excellence (SAVE) business case.  Some of these are innovative, some that you might feel are no-brainers and others that might have you asking, “they weren’t already doing that?”

We thought you might be interested in hearing more about them. (Full list attached below.)

More than 2,500 ideas came in to the city through a variety of sources. Of those, 103 were delivered to the city’s SAVE leadership team based on if they could be achieved within the SAVE timelines. Fifty-six made it to the “opportunity phase.”

These business cases represent $26 million of the total savings.

These decisions are not set in stone; the business cases will need approval from council during budget adjustment meetings later this month.

As it stands, if everything proposed stays the same, the typical single-family homeowner in Calgary will see a relative tax decrease of roughly $1.50 per month. (Relative to its market value assessment.)

Here are some of the business cases we pulled out:

Customer service app for Bylaw Enforcement and Animal Services workers

The city proposes implementation of this app by Q2 of 2021. It will allow Bylaw and Animal Enforcement personnel to conduct activities, upload pictures and close 311 requests from a mobile device. It’s expected this will streamline their processes and allow officers to work more efficiently.

Expected 2021 savings: $115K  ($230K in 2022)

Eliminate purchasing silos at the City of Calgary

According to the city description, purchasing decisions are done via individual business units, “creating silos in purchasing and a lack of strategic procurement.” The plan is to align purchasing where possible across all city business units, also improving longer term planning, and potentially leading to better pricing of supplies.

Expected 2021 savings: $2.4M (after $700k implementation cost)  ($6.4M in 2022)

Eliminate annual civic census

Calgary is making its census data easier to slice and dice with new interactive online maps.

Now that the province ties its grants to Statistics Canada information, and the Calgary school boards don’t use civic census data, the city is considering the elimination of a civic census. They’ve been conducting it since 1958.  Council is looking at eliminating it, but is concerned about not having access to ‘timely, frequent and geographically granular data.’ Another option being considered is a triennial census.

Expected 2021 savings: $942K (ongoing)

Enabling more digital services

This one is pretty straightforward. The city wants to increase the number of digital offerings it has, therefore reducing typically resource intensive interactions (phone or in-person). They’re looking at further digitization opportunities in 311, Assessment and Recreation business units.  

Expected 2021 savings: $854K  ($1M in 2022)

Change vehicle maintenance schedules

According to the city, they currently service their roughly 1,100 light duty fleet vehicles based on elapsed time since the last servicing. They intend to change that to use based, thus reducing maintenance on less used vehicles.

Expected 2021 savings: $60K ($36K in 2022)

Fleet management

Reducing idling in all equipment and reducing avoidable collisions will help the city save cash.

Expected 2021 savings: $193K ($407K in 2022)

Shared vehicles among city business units

The city wants to implement a FlexFleet system, where vehicles are shared between City of Calgary services, in order to reduce the number of vehicles that don’t get used very often. They said one of the benefits is reduced size of fleet and productivity gains in staff.

Expected 2021 savings: $120K ($593K in 2022)

Footprint reduction


The city said that they did have some work-from-home options prior to COVID-19. The pandemic brought about a “forced adoption” of managing a mobile workforce. They’re looking at ongoing long-term savings from having between 3,300 and 4,500 staff that have shifted workstyles since the COVID-19 pandemic began.  They want to build a longer-term plan to “right size” their office portfolio.

Expected 2021 savings: $309K ($513K in 2022)

Fitness / Nutrition services for Calgary firefighters

The city will look at reducing some of the discretionary fitness and nutrition services (nutrition counselling, weekly workout plans) provided to Calgary firefighters.  They intend to reduce these services, but not eliminate them. They say it won’t have a significant impact on services provided to firefighters.

Expected 2021 savings: $325K ($418K in 2022)

Attach 05 – SAVE Business C… by Darren Krause