Each year the Mayor of the City of Council Bluffs prepares an annual operating budget. Historically the growth in operating expense increases at a pace faster than does various sources of city operating revenue. Therefore, unique and innovative cost-saving initiatives are imperative. Mayor Walsh and City staff work ceaselessly to identify additional cost-savings opportunities in an effort to challenge the idea that raising taxes is the only way to ensure that the City can continue to provide its residents high-quality services.
The City of Council Bluffs operates on an annual budget that totals just slightly less than $157 million. Twenty-two percent of these expenditures provide our residents with police and fire protection. Twenty-one percent of the annual expenditures go toward capital improvements throughout the city such as new streets, facilities maintenance or improvements to our stormwater sewer system and levees. Twelve percent is the cost of city employee benefits, with a combined ten percent spent on refuse collection and sanitary sewer maintenance. Eight percent supports the cost of our Library and Parks, and another eight percent pays city administration expenses. Road maintenance accounts for seven percent of the dollars spent, with six percent spent on debt service. Finally, the remaining five percent is spent on community and economic development activities with the missing one percent due to rounding errors attributed to calculating the various expenditure percentages.
Our local property taxes pay only about $42 million of these expenses. A significant, yet shrinking, revenue source is state and federal funding appropriations with the remaining financial support coming from a variety of revenue sources including sales tax, gaming tax, hotel-motel tax, and a variety of fees for special services that the city provides. With State and Federal funding cutbacks expected to persist well into the future, the demand to implement cost saving reduction through efficiency-inducing strategies is fierce.
The list below highlights current cost-savings initiatives. City staff are commended for their diligent work and commitment to reducing costs and increasing efficiencies. The list is perpetually growing and updated regularly.
Implemented Central Purchasing
Allows for bulk purchasing discounts
Increases efficiency and consistency by ensuring accuracy, and reducing employee time spent on payroll related processes
Implemented Uniform Policy
Allows for bulk purchasing discounts, reduces direct costs associated and mitigates risk by requiring certain staff members to wear protective gear
Internalized Contract Labor Administration
Ensures a greater internal oversight and reduction of costs with the City’s Human Resource office in control of the process
Internalized Mowing of City-owned Property
Eliminates having multiple contracts, vendors, and price points by having City staff mow all city-owned property. Reduces direct costs and mitigates risk
Internalized Worker’s Compensation Administration
Ensures a greater internal oversight and reduction of costs in excess of $3 million by putting the City’s Risk Management office in control of the process
Refined Overtime and Acting Pay Procedures
Ensures all other avenues have been exhausted before using/ granting overtime or acting pay
Refined Usage of City-owned Vehicles
Limits the use of vehicles to work-related transportation only, reduces direct costs involved and mitigates risk
Removed Severance for Retirees
Eliminates severance pay for those who retire voluntarily
Restructured Cleaning Contracts
Reduces the frequency of cleaning services at all city-owned property
Revised Bidding Contracts Process
Ensures the City gets the lowest possible bids
Revised Cell Phone Policy
Ensures consistency when granting stipends to compensate staff for work-related use of their personal cell phones
Revised Comp Time Payout Policy
Ensures all comp time is paid out at the earned rate, immediately upon promotion/ transition from hourly to salary, and eliminated the option to save comp time to be paid out at rate upon retirement
Opened City Offices During Lunch
Ensures City offices offer continuous daily service, without closing for a lunch hour
Potential Restructuring of Golf Course
In an effort to reduce/ eliminate losses at golf course, the City is researching opportunities to restructure operations
Terminated Usage of City-owned Residential Property
Eliminates all cost associated. Four separate residential properties were previously owned by the City of Council Bluffs and occupied by current, or former, City employees. These occupants resided free of any charges while city taxpayers covered all costs associated with utilities, maintenance, and property insurance. This past practice has been discontinued
When improving the value proposition of City services, a culture of collaboration and accountability is imperative. Cross-departmental collaboration is strongly encouraged as it opens the opportunity for creativity and innovation. City staff are held accountable for operating in the best interest of the taxpayer and empowered to do so. The City is not simply identifying ways to save money; it’s undergoing a culture change that is necessary to persevere in today’s world. Culture changes happen gradually, and the City of Council Bluffs is making great strides.