Avoid A Structural Deficit

Since the passage of California’s Proposition 13 in 1978, the message to local government has been that growth must pay its own way while continuing to operate in an efficient and effective manner.

The problem was that most agencies did not heed the message and continued down the same path, expecting the state and others to bail them out. A popular catchphrase today is “structural deficit”; however, there is no such thing.

If more money is spent than is taken in, there is a negative balance. Simply put, people need to live within their means. And that is exactly what a small district that grew into a large district did in southern California.

Making The Switch

Valley-Wide Recreation and Park District is a full-contract maintenance organization. The district’s climb from one park to its current inventory of 76 was an evolving process.

When the district added a 5-acre park nearly 10 years ago, it was decided an additional staff member was needed; however, it was also determined there was not enough work to justify an additional full-time employee.

Recognizing its strengths as a recreation-programming organization and not a maintenance-and-repair group, the district’s board of directors decided to hire an outside company to maintain the new park. And who better than a landscape contractor and maintenance company that already exists in the community? Not only do the contractors do similar work, but they also employ numerous community members who live, shop, and add to the local economy.

After experiencing some growing pains and a learning curve, the district found that the contractors exceeded expectations. Subsequently, another decision was made to contract out the maintenance of all existing and any new parks.

It is important to specify that some maintenance still needed to be done in-house. Although the core maintenance staff remains, members are now inspectors, contract monitors and field-preparation specialists, who assist in quality assurance. As such, their roles are less apt to utilize workers’ compensation and more apt to save on liability claims.

Adding Up The Savings

And what did all of these changes do for the department? Simply put, workers’ compensation, retirement, vacations, sick leave, liability, equipment acquisition and consistent maintenance were transferred to the responsibility of the contractors, which freed up the district’s available funds, and allowed it to continue to provide accessible programs at a reasonable cost.

Today, Valley-Wide maintains over 1,000 acres of developed parks. And while agencies similar in size have 40 to 60 full-time maintenance employees plus administrators, that amounts to 40 to 60 salaries to pay, plus additional benefits, such as health, retirement, holidays, sick leave, etc. That’s also an average of 80 weeks of vacations and 80 weeks of sick leave.

Also, since liability decreases, so does the cost of workers’ compensation. Organizations similar to Valley-Wide pay three to four times more in workers’ compensation rates while eating up operational dollars that otherwise could go to deferred maintenance and recreation programming. Currently, the district pays $36,000 annually, as opposed to $165,000.

Page 1 of 2 | Next page

Related posts:

  1. Feeling Minnesota
  2. Top 10 National Parks
  3. After the Meltdown … Spring Color!
  4. Planting The Seeds Of Best-Maintenance Practices
  5. Use The Rinse Cycle
  • Columns
  • Departments