City Mgm't Hired Consultant Firm Says City of LB's Per Capita Costs For Services (Incl. Police & Fire) Higher Than Median And In Some Cases At High End Compared To Other Cities; Says Some Savings May Be Possible By Combining Some City Departments, Says Public May Be Amenable To Tax Increase Ballot Measure
|(June 20, 2012) -- In an afternoon budget meeting agendized as "a presentation on Potential Government Reform Ideas and Trends," a city management-hired consulting firm told the City Council (Garcia, Andrews absent) that the City of Long Beach's costs for services, including police and fire services, are above the median and in some cases at the high end of costs per thousand residents among seven cities that the firm deemed comparable (with caveats) for benchmarking purposes.
Two representatives of the firm, Management Partners, indicated said some cost savings may be possible by combining departments that perform similar functions, such as (for an example) possibly combining Parks and Rec with Library functions. The firm also suggested that, based on results in 10 of 11 cities in the most recent election cycle, voters might be amenable to approving some tax measures which need only simple majority votes. [Unmentioned: the Council's deadline for putting measures on a November city ballot is in early August.]
The firm gave a verbal report illustrated with Power Point Slides. No written text was provided. To view the Power Point slides, click here.
To hear the presentation by Jerry Newfarmer (Ohio-based President/CEO of "Management Partners") and Cathy Standiford (Irvine-based Partner at "Management Partners" OC office) click here.
LBReport.com presents these materials for the record as presented at the June 19 Council session, not necessarily as proof of the matters asserted. LBReport.com plans to follow-up on the consultants' presentation in subsequent articles.
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Consultant Newfarmer acknowledged that every city is unique and no two cities are exactly alike. He noted that Long Beach has density that San Diego doesn't and is more like Oakland and less like Sacramento, but said it was possible to learn from the aggregate.
The consultants said they used data obtained from publicly available sources including budgets and CAFRs as well as information provided by Long Beach city management. Under Council questioning, one consultant acknowledged that the firm's report had been prepared during a roughly two month period.
The consultants' Power Point presentation wasn't made available to the public or to Councilmembers prior to the meeting, meaning elected officials could only ask questions based on their initial first look. Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske noted that combining libraries and Parks and Libraries into one Department (as in Santa Ana) would be different than in Long Beach, because Santa Ana has one library while Long Beach has several.
Councilwoman Rae Gabelich noted that LB's total police staffing numbers include a number of officers [roughly 60] that aren't available for routine citywide deployment because they're contracted and paid by separately funded/budgeted city agencies...and she asked the displayed chart reflected this. Consultant Standiford replied that among the firm's compared cities, Anaheim and Oakland had combined staffing numbers.
Councilman DeLong noted that in terms of total staffing, LB appeared to be almost 100% above the median the median and asked "how apples to apples" this comparison was. Were private contracted employees included? No, the graph showed only public employees, not total employees (if the function has been outsourced or contracted out). The consultant said a metric of "cost per function" would better reflect this.
When Councilman DeLong asked why LB's police costs per capita appeared to be so high, consultant Standiford replied that a couple of factors come to mind: either total staffing per population is higher or compensation is higher. She added that the firm hadn't studied compensation, and her partner Newfarmer said studying compensation would be a major piece of analytical work and not included in the work they were doing on this assignment.
Asked by Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske how much the city paid to hire the consultant firm, City Manager Pat West said it was in the neighborhood of $85,000.
City Manager West added that as part of the same cost, the consultants will present a second presentation on July 3 that will provide more "key opportunities" the city should evaluate.
Again: City Hall's deadline for putting ballot measures on the November 2012 ballot is in early August.
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