A year later, KPMG study's impact on Tulsa lauded
BY BRIAN BARBER World Staff Writer
Sunday, September 04, 2011
9/08/11 at 5:55 PM
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the KPMG efficiency
One year after the KPMG efficiency study of Tulsa's government was publicly released, it has spawned projects expected to generate $28.8 million in savings over five fiscal years.
"We, as a city, are blazing a new trail with this," Mayor Dewey Bartlett said.
By cutting waste and finding better ways to do things - which free up limited taxpayer dollars - the city will be able to catch up in areas where it has skimped before, Bartlett said.
"It's not that we don't have enough money," Mayoral Chief of Staff Terry Simonson said. "It's putting the money we have toward the best use."
The review by KPMG, an auditing and efficiency consulting firm, was launched in spring 2010 in the aftermath of the city's budget cuts and layoffs.
Paid for by the Tulsa Community Foundation, the study made 1,100 recommendations, including identifying hundreds of services that could be eliminated, outsourced, consolidated or continued through partnerships.
The findings were met by skepticism from many city councilors and employees. But with education, the administration says, it has won over many of the initial detractors.
"Many people thought this was going to be a blueprint for the mayor to fire people, and that was never the case," Simonson said.
"The goal all along has been to position the city so that, hopefully, we don't have to go through a financial crisis situation like that ever again."
Established to oversee the vetting of the KPMG recommendations and help with their implementation is the Management Review Office, which has five city employees. Rather than leaving the study's fate up to department heads, it was important to have it aggressively pursued by an independent body, Bartlett said.
"I wish we could have snapped our fingers and had all of this come together more quickly, but we had to put an effective process together to fully realize the benefits of this study."
The office's director, Vickie Beyer, said the work is rewarding because it's about showing results and giving back to taxpayers.
"I am very proud of all the accomplishments the MRO has made in such a short time," she said.
City Hall maintenance: City employees bid against private contractors to continue providing mechanical, electrical, plumbing and carpentry services at City Hall. To win the bid for a five-year contract, the employees reduced staffing by one vacant position, gave up two vehicles and upgraded to a Web-enabled version of their work-order system.
Projected savings - $185,000 annually
Public Works reorganization: Following the retirement of Public Works Department Director Charles Hardt, the mayor wanted to better organize the 1,400-employee department, which he said had grown too big and complex.
Bartlett split it up, creating three new departments: Streets & Stormwater, Water & Sewer and Engineering Services. Six vacant positions were eliminated.
Projected savings - $571,000 annually
Projects under way
Fleet management: A private firm was hired to review the city's Equipment Management Department, which oversees the maintenance and operations of 3,482 fleet assets including 2,572 vehicles.
Among its recommendations are to reduce the fleet by 22 percent, which is about 568 vehicles, and expand the pool of cars that employees can check out.
Projected savings - $2.7 million this fiscal year and $575,000 annually in subsequent years
Streets maintenance optimization: A review of city street maintenance activities revealed that less than 25 percent of available time was spent on actual street maintenance activities. The primary reason has been the lack of consistent funding to buy street materials because it has gone to contract work. Those funds are now being administered by the director of the new Streets Department.
Also, the employees are now in a pilot program working four, 10-hour days, rather than the standard work week, to maximize their time in the field. And work order processes are being streamlined.
Projected savings - $375,000 this fiscal year and $500,000 annually in subsequent years
Animal welfare: The city issued a request for information during the summer inviting ideas from qualified animal welfare providers on how to improve the Tulsa Animal Welfare Shelter. A number of partnership opportunities are being explored to strengthen enforcement, increase adoptions, decrease euthanizations and expand education efforts.
Projected savings - $300,000 this fiscal year and $600,000 annually in subsequent years
Police civilianization: The Police Department has identified 17 positions filled by uniformed officers that could be held by civilians. They include three desk officers, three phone report officers, three equipment officers, two policy researchers and one each of policy writer, grants administrator, Web master, certification officer, court monitor and court liaison. Savings will be realized by redeploying at least eight of the officers into the field.
Projected savings - $232,500 this fiscal year and $465,000 annually in subsequent fiscal years
Time and attendance: The city is acquiring an automated time-and-attendance system. The system is now done entirely by hand and using multiple employees. The savings will include redeploying five employees. Not included are the savings from curtailing inaccurate reporting, time theft and calculation errors.
Projected savings - $150,000 next fiscal year and $300,000 annually in subsequent fiscal years
Customer service: The Mayor's Action Center, utilities call center and refuse call functions have been consolidated into a Customer Care Center to improve customer service and leverage employees during peak call times. One vacant position was eliminated. A long-term goal is to establish a one-stop 311 number.
Projected savings - $42,000 annually
Workers compensation: The city's workers compensation expenses continue to rise, topping $10 million last fiscal year. A request for proposals will be issued to find an experienced firm that can make recommendations about how to reduce the number of injuries and amount of expense.
Projected savings - $250,000 this fiscal year and $1 million annually in subsequent fiscal years
Health care audit: The city will have an audit done to confirm that all city employee dependents on the city's health plan are eligible and to provide recommendations on how the city can more effectively determine eligibility in the future. A contract will be awarded in October.
Projected savings - $150,000 this fiscal year and $300,000 annually in subsequent fiscal years
Utilities audit: Tulsa spends $13.5 million annually on electricity, natural gas and thermal energy. A firm will be hired to audit the city's utility bills for the past three years and make sure the city is getting the most advantageous rates. A contract will be awarded in October.
Projected savings - $500,000 in one-time payments this fiscal year and $167,500 annually in subsequent fiscal years
Water study: In response to the KPMG recommendation to explore privatization of the city's water system, the Tulsa Metropolitan Utility Authority has hired a firm to conduct a review of its governance, operations, finances and strategy. A series of reports are due over several months.
Projected savings - To be determined
Performing Arts Center: The facility is expected to have a $15 million shortfall over the next five years, based on the last few years of operating deficits and the forecasted capital needs. Partnership opportunities are being discussed with the PAC Trust.
Projected savings - To be determined
Crossing guards: The city will revisit a potential partnership with the school districts after Tulsa Public Schools' Project Schoolhouse consolidation has been completed. Instead of crossing guards being city employees, the proposal has been to pay districts stipends that could go to school staff members to take on the guard duty.
Projected savings - $100,000 annually beginning next fiscal year
Original Print Headline: City lauds savings in study of efficiency
Brian Barber 918-581-8322
MILLIONS TO BE SAVED
Mayor Dewey Bartlett (left) and Terry Simonson: They say using the KPMG study's findings could save the city $28.8 million over five years.