Avoid A Structural Deficit

When one includes 13 percent for retirement and 18 percent for medical, the numbers accumulate to over $1,000,000 in savings annually.

Below is a comparison of budgets for agencies similar in size to Valley-Wide. Granted, liability is based on budget, but workers’ compensation is based on loss module, which is definitely affected by the number of employees, compared to facilities maintained.

In 2011, as budgets are squeezed, Valley-Wide’s district officials are even more thankful for embarking on contract maintenance in 1992, the last time the state truly impacted the budget.

Standardizing Operations

Streamlining operations also allowed the district to advance the use of technology, and specified that the contractors manage irrigation, scheduling and power consumption for lighted ball fields, tennis courts and soccer fields.

The district mandated specific equipment in the parks, and standardized all the fixtures that make parks work, such as Calsense controls for irrigation systems and Musco lighting solutions. The real-time programmable systems allow officials to control park operations from an office, home or any other place with an internet connection.

Of course, there is always the argument that employees take a greater ownership in maintaining local parks, but the reality is that when an employee is sick or on vacation, some maintenance is delayed or not done at all.

A contractor, however, will do the job on a consistent basis. If the job is not completed, the contractor can be fired for poor quality without the fear of wrongful termination and/or protection from labor groups.

Plus, those same maintenance workers still live in the community, except they are not public employees; instead, they are individuals working for a private enterprise. When one considers the entire picture, the taxpayers benefit the most.

The Kiplinger Letter, volume 84, number 5, verifies what the park district already knows from experience:

“It’s also good for taxpayers. … As more state budgets are squeezed … half already face sudden revenue shortfalls due to the slump in housing and sales taxes. … Privatization projects are soaring. They’re a quick source of needed cash and a long-term hope for capping worker costs. That’s good news for many businesses that can nab new profit opportunities. It’s also good for most taxpayers, who usually gain cheaper and better service, plus it moves the risk to the private sector if a project turns out to be a money loser.”

Sam Goepp retired after 39 years in the field–the last 23 years as the general manager of the Valley-Wide Recreation & Park District. He can be reached via e-mail at goepp@linkline.com.

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