By Carla Branch and James Cullum
The efficiency audit for the Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Activities is complete and, if all of the recommendations are implemented, there could be an annual savings of $665,000. Maryland-based Matrix Consulting Group conducted the audit over the past several months and presented their recommendations to the Alexandria City Council at the Dec. 9 legislative meeting.
This is the fourth efficiency and best practice study completed in response to Council’s request to review City departments. Previous reports were completed for Transportation & Environmental Services, the administrative functions of the Fire Department and Fleet Management. A fifth study of the Human Resources Department will be presented to Council in January. The cost of the PRCA study was $150,000.
1. Analyze service levels, workload, output, and staffing for all divisions, program areas
and administration (park maintenance programs, City Marina, recreation centers, and
2. Evaluate all programs and services offered in terms of necessity, efficiency, staffing,
funding, hours of service vs. demand for service, and responsiveness to resident needs
for all divisions, program areas and administration;
3. Examine allocated personnel (including the use of overtime and seasonal employees),
the department system used for tracking the allocation of positions and controls on
filling these positions, equipment, and other resources to assess proper workload
4. Examine equipment needs and evaluate the replacement/depreciation schedules;
5. Examine the provisions of computers for public use, educational, recreational, or
other purposes in recreation facilities and systems used for software and hardware
maintenance and financing (replacement/depreciation schedules);
6. Examine park and recreation center capital improvement program needs and planning
7. Examine the department’s fee policies with respect to the cost of the programs
provided and the comparisons to fees for other similar programs in the metropolitan
8. Examine the department’s maintenance services (parks, buildings, trees, horticulture);
9. Examine service standards and performance measurements of each program area;
10. Examine special event staffing costs policies and fundraising policies (including
11. Identify and compare other local governments and regional and local park authorities
as benchmarks to compare service delivery systems, policies, and programs to each
area of the department;
12. Provide an analysis of the department’s optimal organizational structure, including
spans of control, lines of authority, and fiscal accountability;
13. Develop projections of immediate and long term savings in capital or operating costs
resulting from implementing performance audit and efficiency recommendations or
returns on investment (ROI); and
14. Develop recommendations and a plan (including timelines and identification of
responsible parties) to be incorporated into the next annual budgeting cycle.
Matrix Vice President Gary Goelitz presented the study’s recommendations to Council. “Our goal is to help make a good department better,” he said. “ First of all,. This department is only one of 71 departments of parks and recreation nationally, that is accredited. You should be very proud of that. Also, overall, the staff is providing quality services to the community.”
The study makes 214 different recommendations, of which the staff supports 115, and has begun implementing some of those already. The major recommendations the City has begun implementing or will implement are:
1. Enhance the Recreation Program Plan of the Department. The study recommends that the recreation program plan completed by the department be expanded to include information from the department’s Strategic Master Plan. Staff agrees and has begun incorporating this information.
2. Assess Recreation Needs and Expansion of Recreation Programs. The study recommends that center
directors perform an assessment of community-based recreation needs. The study also recommends instituting additional programs at all recreation centers based on the assessment. Staff agrees with this recommendation and center directors will begin this analysis and development of additional programs over the next year .
3. Cost of Service Study (#’s 59’60 & 61) – The study recommends the Division Chief of Administration perform a cost of service study for Recreation Services programs and develop a cost recovery policy for each service provided. In addition, the study recommends that the Department
develop a cost recovery policy for programs and activities that should be considered for adoption by City Council. Staff agrees with this recommendation and will be working to develop a policy recommendation and complete the study over the next two years.
4. Recommended Improvements for the Delivery of Recreation Services . The study recommends that the Deputy Director of Recreation Services, assisted by the Division Chief of Administrative Services and Division Chief of Recreation Services, evaluate the operating hours of recreation centers and determine if the hours of operation are appropriate. The study also recommends that an analysis of staff
allocation for each recreation center be performed and that a determination be made that optimizes staff efficiencies at each center based on actual demand for services. Staff agrees with this recommendation and has begun this analysis.
5. Eliminate 4.75 Custodial Positions. The Study recommends that the department follow the national standard of one custodian for every (approximately) 18,000 SF of floor space at Recreation Centers for a cost savings of $261,470. Staff agrees and to date has reduced two positions through attrition to date.
6. Improve Data Reports (#72) – The study recommends the development of new templates for monthly reports based on data that is captured with the computer management system. Staff agrees with this recommendation and will develop such templates.
7. Add two tree Trimmer Positions. The Study recommends the addition of two tree trimmer positions based on work load levels and demand at a cost of $143,500. Staff agrees but this recommendation will be considered in the context of budget deliberations and fiscal constraints.
8. Adjust the Level of Horticultural Service by Reducing the Number of Facilities Receiving a Level 1 and 2 Service. The study recommends that the level of horticultural service at multiple sites be reduced in order to provide a better overall level of consistent appearance at horticultural sites in the City for a cost reduction of $152,000. Staff agrees and this will be brought forward in the context of upcoming budget deliberations.
9. In House all Horticultural Services. The study recommends that the contract for horticultural services be canceled and the work be performed by in house seasonal and full-time staff for a cost reduction of $178,000. Staff agrees with this concept but the implementation of this will take time and require an available labor pool that is skilled in this work.
10. Increase the Number of Laborer I11 Positions. The Study recommends the increase of staff positions to park maintenance Laborer 111 positions by 10 for a cost increase of $527,000. Staff agrees with the number recommended but believes the position grade is varied in need . This recommendation will be considered in the context of upcoming budget deliberations and fiscal constraints.
11. Increase Seasonal Staff hours for Parks by 22,500 hours. The study recommends adding additional seasonal park maintenance staff equivalent to 22,500 hours, in order to improve park maintenance, for a cost increase of $225,000. Staff agrees but this recommendation will be considered in the context of upcoming budget deliberations and fiscal constraints.
12. Update the Comprehensive Inventory of Parks and Facilities. The study recommends that the Department update its inventory of parks and facilities to ensure all related park information and amenities are included in the inventory. Staff agrees with this recommendation and has begun this comprehensive update
13. Enhance the Marketing Strategic Plan. The study recommends the enhancement of the marketing plan for the Department so that the plan provides specific marketing guidance for each program area. Staff is in agreement with this recommendation and has begun the process of improving the marketing plan .
14. Add a New Management Analyst I1 Position. The study recommends a new Management Analyst I1 position be authorized for the Administration Division to assist in implementing the recommendations identified for business improvements, analysis and management improvements at a cost of $96,000. Staff agrees with this recommendation; however, this will be considered in the context of upcoming budget deliberations and fiscal constraints.
15. Add a New Customer Support Engineer I11 Position. The study recommends the authorization of a new Customer Support Engineer I11 position to bring the Department in line with national standards related to IT support, improvements to the web site, application of additional technological systems and in consideration of the numbers of computers and computer labs the Department manages, at a cost of $104,000. Staff agrees with this recommendation; however, this will be considered in the context of upcoming budget deliberations and fiscal constraints.
Of the recommendations not discussed above, some were determined to require further study, other recommendations that were a lower priority, were found to be in existence, or were unwarranted at this time, staff said. In addition, the following recommendations were planned as changes by the Department independent of the consultant report.
1. Create an Office for the Arts Director position to report to Department Director
2. Move position of Division Chief of Capital Projects to Recreation Services as Recreation Division Chief
3. Undertake a reclassification of the Administrative Services Division Chief
4. Have the City Arborist report directly to Deputy Director
5. Have the Horticulture Operations report to City Arborist
6. Realign senior and therapeutic programs to Recreation Services Division
7. Improve and revise the Facilities Use Agreement with City School system
8. Improve tree maintenance contract specifications to include block pruning
9. Install formal tree maintenance scheduling system
10. Establish a Percent for Art Program and incentives for developer contributions to the art
11. Develop a Public Art Master Plan
12. Develop of a special events policy that is adopted by City Council
The remaining recommendations will take time to implement fully, and many of the recommended changes are dependent on utilization of the savings that were identified in the study. Because of the current fiscal environment, some of the recommended resource re-allocations may not be feasible as the study had projected.
Matrix and City staff agree that the Department realistically can not achieve all of the high priority
recommendations within the next year. Staff indicated that the Department would focus on what could be implemented now and also focus on the major recommendations that would yield the greatest positive impact on service delivery and overall business improvements.
Annual operating cost increases associated with the recommendations total approximately $1,725,468 for a net savings of $665,000 per year. Additional revenues identified by the study total $933,800. While undergoing the study, the Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities Department identified and provided $326,288 of savings in FY 2008 and savings in the amount of $275,810 in FY 2009 for a total savings of $602,098. This was achieved prior to the expenditure reductions offered by the Department and accepted by Council as additional budget reductions for FY 2009 in the amount of $820,000. To date, the Department has achieved budget reductions over the past three fiscal years in the amount
of $ 1,422,098, more than double the amount identified by the consultant.
“We welcome this audit and, I am very pleased to say, the staff has embraced most of the recommendations,” said Kirk Kincannon, PRCA Director.
Council has forwarded the report to the Parks and Recreation Commission for review and has asked that the commission provide comments to Council by February 2009. Further, the budget and fiscal affairs advisory committee will receive a copy of the report for information purposes. Council will schedule a work session in March to discuss the study’s recommendations in greater detail.