$ave A Full-Time Position And More

Amy McMillan runs a tight ship.

As executive director of the Genesee County Parks and Recreation Commission, headquartered in Flint, Mich., she has watched property values plummet and the millage income that supports the parks decline as a result.

She has also watched use of the 11,000 acres of county parks increase. She knows that families are staying closer to home these days and that they are happily finding in the county parks an abundance of recreational opportunities–from playgrounds and picnic areas to fishing holes, disc golf, camping and ORV trails.

At a time when city budgets are also strained and city pools and parks are being closed, the county parks have become a “first choice” and often an “only choice” for residents.

McMillan knows that for parks to be attractive and usable, grasslands must be mowed, equipment and structures must be maintained, and rangers must be on duty for both visitor assistance and safety.

Changing the mowing schedule saves change

As unemployment looms large across the state, McMillan says proudly that the economic impact of the parks commission’s payroll in 2009 was just under $7 million, and that local spending by her employees supported an additional 113 local full-time jobs.

She states, with her signature enthusiasm, that maintaining the largest county-park system in the state for the past 10 years has been both a joy and a challenge, and that she works with the best staff on the planet. For all these reasons and more, issuing pink slips to accommodate a shrinking budget simply isn’t an option she is interested in considering.

$tart With $10

Still, McMillan knows that budgets have to balance.

Faced with a dilemma that would stymie most people, McMillan has turned to the people who always have answers for her, her think tank, the staff.

“I put the challenge before them,” she says. “Whenever we need to reach out or communicate or get something done, we are always more successful when we bring the staff members in on the plan to get their ideas and their support.”

McMillan asked the members to think of ideas they could implement that would each save the commission $10. That figure seemed a good benchmark because it is the average cost per hour of a seasonal employee, and it seemed achievable. She hoped the ideas would generate between $25,000 and $40,000 in savings.

Ideas poured in, were evaluated, and launched as soon as possible.

Minimal Effort For Big $avings

Cell phones used by seasonal staff were put on “vacation” mode to save monthly fees. Computers, screens and typewriters were turned off at night. Blue jeans were allowed in place of the uniform pants purchased for the staff. When possible, sand replaced salt for snow and ice control.

One day was added to the routine mowing schedule to save fuel and labor. And staff advocated for “grow, not mow” by enhancing natural features of the parks and reducing areas that need to be regularly mowed.

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