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CitiStat helps Springfield save $1.75 million

Date: 4/27/2009

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD -- The 180 meetings convened by the CitiStat Springfield program to find better ways of the city doing business and delivering services to the residents since January 2008 have resulted in a savings of $1.75 million or a nearly $7 return on every dollar spent by the city on the program.

CitiStat Director Paul Foster was joined at a press conference at City Hall on Tuesday by Finance Control board Executive Director Steve Lisauskas and Denise Jordan, Mayor Domenic Sarno's chief of staff.

Foster said, "CitiStat asks many good questions and is getting good answers."

He described it as "an inter-department focused approach."

He used as an example the issue of employees who take Mondays and Fridays off as sick time. Through the CitiStat meetings, the department heads learned the Parks and Facilities Department has been analyzing sick time every six months. If there was an irregularity, the employee was sent a letter to have a non-punitive discussion with a supervisor.

Foster said that other departments adopting this approach have decreased sick time.

Lisauskas said that city employees "have taken time to get accustomed to [CitiStat]," and there has been "no resistance from employees."

When the CitiStat effort is directed at a specific neighborhood there can also be dramatic results. As a pilot effort the South End neighborhood around Marble Street was selected. The Building, Community Development, Fire, Health & Human Services, Housing, and Police Departments met, which resulted in the identification of 21 high priority properties in the neighborhoods that are addressed.

In the report, it is noted that on Marble Street, the number of calls for service to the Police Department dropped by 14.6 percent when comparing the same three-month period in the years before and after NeighborhoodStat process. This includes an 81.8 percent decline in calls for shots fired and an 80 percent decline in calls about drug activity.

Because of the meetings through NeighborhoodStat, the city has adopted a vacant and foreclosing property registration ordinance, Foster added, which will improve the city's ability to ensure code compliance and provide better information on the ownership of vacant buildings. This registration of vacant properties will generate as much as $130,000 in fees.

The next neighborhoods scheduled to go through the NeighborhoodStat process will be the lower Belmont Avenue area of Forest Park and Leyfred Terrace. Within the next 12 months, there should be two more areas examined.

Other future CitiStat project include looking to eliminate 50 take-home city owned vehicles that could save the city $35,000 annually; working with the Business Improvement District on downtown issues; and improving the collection of inspection fees for services provided by the Fire Department.

The following are some of the other results of the CitiStat program that were reported last week:

• Sick Leave -- Reduced sick leave use by 13.5 percent, projected to cut lost productivity by $360,000 in FY2009. The average employee is now using 7.8 sick days in a year compared to 9.0 in FY2008.

• Overtime -- Decreased overtime utilization through consistent monitoring. Overtime spending in Public Works, not including snow removal, is down 5.7 percent in FY2009.

• Workplace Injuries -- Reduced the number of workplace injuries resulting in lost time by 6 percent in the Department of Public Works and reduced the number of medical claims in the Parks and Facilities Department by 24 percent. Overall workers compensation costs in FY2009 are projected to be down $120,000, or 20 percent, from FY2008 as a result of a new focus on preventing injuries.

• Fee and Fine Collections -- Efforts to improve the City's ability to collect fees and fines, once fully implemented, will result in at least $90,000 per year in additional revenue as well as better enforcement of city ordinances.

• Code Enforcement Efficiency -- Increased the number of inspections being completed per month per inspector by 13.8 and 14.4 percent in the Building and Housing departments respectively.

• Schools Recycling -- Reduced trash tonnage hauled from school buildings by 12.0 percent through increased paper recycling and the initiation of a styrofoam lunch tray-recycling program.

• Solid Waste Costs -- Reduced trash tonnage being disposed of by 5.2 percent and increased recycling tonnage by 11.7 percent. The decline in trash tonnage will save the City more than $150,000 in disposal fees in FY2009.

• False Fire Alarms -- The City spent $313,000 in FY2008 responding to false fire alarms caused by malfunctions and malicious intent. The City has adopted a revised ordinance that will increase the fines for repeated false alarms and expand the types of false alarms for which a fine can be issued.

• Extra Details -- Reduced outstanding invoices for police extra details by 64.2 percent (or $520,000).

• False Security Alarms -- Reduced the number of false security alarms received by the Police Department by about 15 percent, saving more than $50,000 and nearly 1,000 hours of wasted patrol time.

• Applicant Tracking -- Using a new web page, the City is now receiving more than 60 percent of job applications online. This is improving the City's ability to track applicants and allows hiring managers to see application materials as they are submitted.

• Advertising -- Reduced costs for advertising legal notices in the newspaper by 10 to 15 percent through abbreviating words, saving about $1,000.

• Police Response Time -- Focused on "time from call received to dispatch" (instead of dispatch to arrival) and reduced response time to Priority 2 calls by 21 percent (a minute and 45 seconds).

• Proactive Code Inspections -- Increased (by 27.7 percent) the proportion of housing code inspections being generated proactively by inspectors who know their assigned zones. In addition, began targeted code inspections being completed jointly by a housing inspector and a zoning inspector focused on problem areas.

• School Safety and Security -- Focused the attention of multiple City departments on issues of safety and security in school buildings, including vandalism, false fire alarms and arrests taking place in schools. A request has since been included in the City's capital improvement plan for additional security cameras in school buildings.