You know what they say.
"You have to spend money in order to ... it's not to make money, it's more to save money, in this case," City Councilor Jan Martin says.
No matter how you describe it, Colorado Springs' attempt to "be more efficient" by looking at outsourcing many basic city services to private companies has become mired in comedy. Because while it's unknown whether outsourcing will reap savings, one thing is clear: Exploring outsourcing will cost money. At least $90,000, to be exact.
This started in January when City Council, after months of prodding by private businessmen hungry for city dollars, told staff to determine whether the city could save money by outsourcing services. Staff complied, and in late May presented Council with a long list of departments and services that could be outsourced — everything from information technology to Sertich Ice Center management to workers' compensation administration.
The next step was to ask local businesses which services they thought they could provide, and for approximately what price.
Here's where it starts getting interesting.
See, asking these questions is an involved process. If you want to ask a company whether it can take over the city's IT department, for instance, you have to be able to describe everything the IT department does. Further, if a company says it can perform all those services at a savings, you must make sure that's true.
Thus, even making the initial contracting phase for outsourcing happen (in which the city will post "requests for information" and see how many companies bite) will take two full-time employees an entire year.
Here's where it gets better. In the past, the city's procurement office could handle this sort of thing, maybe looking to contract out for a little help, since it's such an involved process. But now, procurement actually will have to hire two temporary full-time workers.
That's because procurement only has 1 general fund positions on staff, down from nine a few years ago, before massive city layoffs.
"We would probably be able to do this in-house ourselves if we had the people," Procurement Services manager Curt DeCapite says. "There's some irony there."
Oh, and if the RFIs bring any good bids, the city would issue the more formal "request for proposals," with private companies bidding against city workers to see who could provide services at the lower cost.
But there's no one to put together those RFPs, either, which means those temporary workers would stay with the city as much as a year longer, costing another $90,000 or so.
So where's the money coming from? Initially, interim City Manager Steve Cox was going to ask Council to take it out of the general fund balance, which functions as the city's savings account. But some Councilors weren't hot on that idea.
"When I heard of the request for additional dollars, I said I'm going to treat it like any other fund balance draw and vote no," Councilor Darryl Glenn said.
Glenn didn't have to. Cox decided to find the money within his allotted budget. He notes that many city workers are resigning and often aren't being replaced. So, Cox figures, he can use salary savings to pay for this program.
"We're still going to move forward with the work," he says.
• Workers compensation and liability claim administration
• Starsmore Discovery Center/Helen Hunt Falls
• Information technology department
• Various fleet responsibilities
• Sertich Ice Center
• City Auditorium
• Youth sports
• Adult sports
• Senior Center
• Therapeutic recreation
• Community sports
• Revenue collections (a recent effort at outsourcing this failed)
• Procurement services
• Police alarms program
• Police transcription
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