A potential project would take a deeper look at Jefferson City's government and how it could improve.
The Committee on Administration on Wednesday voted for staff to put together a request for proposals (RFP) focused on an efficiency and performance study of city government.
The RFP will be reviewed at next month's meeting before potentially going to the City Council.
Ward 3 Councilman Scott Spencer brought forward the study suggestion after discussions during the city's budget process led to plans for the city to conduct a compensation study.
Spencer suggested an efficiency and performance study should come first.
"We did (a salary study) in 2016," he said Wednesday. "We know the issues and I can safely assume that the problem is worse and not better. Therefore, what are we really accomplishing other than solidifying new updated data. The only real solution to deal with compression and to address market value compensation is to cut personnel services expenditures."
Spencer suggested looking at what a 3-6 percent personnel reduction would look like; how the city could outsource services such as parking, utilities, transit, parks and human resources services; consolidation of city and county services such as health inspections and public works; whether the city is providing services that should be done by nonprofits or private industry; and whether there's a way to recoup cost for certain emergency responses by billing insurance companies for outside the city/county residents.
Over the last two decades, he said, more of the city budget has gone into personnel services — from 61.7 percent in 1994 to 80.15 percent in the approved 2022 budget. The budget also grew from $26.2 million in 1994 to $64.4 million for 2022.
"My reasons for the study is it allows us to assess where we've been and where we're going as an organization, as a local government," Spencer said. "We cannot have an honest in-depth discussion as it relates to salary enhancements if we don't look at the other side of the coin, and be willing to look at, in-depth, our city government functions, operations and services. Probably the biggest reason for it, I think, is the taxpayer expects us to to periodically assess and make improvements in efficiency and service delivery."
As far as he's found, Spencer said, the city has never conducted a performance study. While there were conversations in 2005, he couldn't find where anything came from it.
He suggested working with Cole County for the study to look at both entities, but county officials weren't interested at this time because of how the two are structured differently.
"We have all these elected officials, and we give them their budget. But being elected, we can't tell the sheriff what to do with his money. We can't tell the assessor," said Sam Bushman, presiding commissioner. "It's our form of government. It's so different from the city's."
For instance, while the Cole County sheriff is an elected position, the Jefferson City police chief is hired by the City Council.
"Scott has one of his departments he's looking at is parks and rec," Bushman said. "We have our parks and rec is under public works, and we have a very small but efficient parks and rec. It's not a separate entity unto itself. Our organization is just different from what the city's is. Spending the money wouldn't really benefit us."
The study would cost $50,000-$70,000, Spencer said, but City Administrator Steve Crowell said it could be easily double that estimate depending on the scope of the study.
Crowell said his concern with doing the study now is everything city staff is already working on.
"The parking garages, rescue plan money, compensation study whenever we decide to do that," he said. "I think it's going to be tough on staff to spend more time doing something like this. I don't think it's a bad idea."
Spencer's suggestion did receive support from several Committee on Administration members.
Ward 5 Councilman Jon Hensley said the compensation study doesn't need to wait for the performance study, but supported the idea of looking into both.
"For the employees who are currently here and currently providing services for the residents of the city, I'm not comfortable putting their salary corrections in line behind performance studies," he said. "These are not pieces that have to go together. I think it's perfectly fine as a parallel set of exercises."
Ward 3 Councilwoman Erin Wiseman said the compensation and performance studies are separate, autonomous issues that can be done separately or alongside each other.
"I think we should do the compensation study, because that's something that this committee has passed on to the City Council to do," she said. "I don't think that one should rely on the other. I don't think we should have only a compensation study after we have a performance study, because frankly I think that we need to figure out what the compensation issue is and then combine jobs if necessary or eliminate jobs as people retire if necessary or whatever else."
Ward 1 Councilman Hank Vogt said his concern with both studies is making sure the results are taken seriously, reviewed and implemented. In terms of the compensation study, the last one was conducted in 2016.
"I hate the fact that we've done all these studies, if we can use that study to efficiently make some decisions now," he said. "We're just talking about compensation for existing employees, I don't see where it would be that much of a struggle to get a modern, up-to-date number for compensation for specific positions off the old study. Why do a new study when nothing was done with the last study?"
Ward 4 Councilman Ron Fitzwater said a performance study would be a good use of funding.
"The city did not grow in the last 10 years, yet the percentages of our overall budget continues to go up," he said. "Fortunately, our budget has gone up with sales tax and other opportunities. I think doing the due diligence, I think it would be dollars well spent. My thing is if we are going to use the old one or invest new dollars, we need a commitment that we're going to try to implement this thing."
A RFP for the compensation study will go before the City Council at its Oct. 18 meeting.