Independent contractors are playing a growing role in allowing the City of Manteca to be nimble to meet increased workload without saddling taxpayers with long-term costs.
It is keeping with a promise former City Manager Karen McLaughlin made at the depth of the Great Recession that elected leaders ultimately embraced as policy — “the (city) can’t afford to go back to business as usual” when the economy picked up.
The $151.9 million budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 that was adopted this week by the City Council reflects that promise as have spending strategies in the past several years when it comes to personnel.
What is at stake is significant. Of the citywide budget that includes wastewater, water, solid waste collection and capital improvement projects as well as the $40.1 million general fund that provides day to day municipal services such as police, fire, parks, and street services personnel costs that include salary and benefits comes to $64.3 million.
The proverbial 900-pound gorilla lurking in the financial shadows is the impact cities such as Manteca will be paying for a significant stretch of time when the California Public Employment Retirement Systems (CalPERS) was essentially mismanaged by overpromising returns on investments.
The current budget year CalPERS contribution citywide is $9.5 million. That is expected to balloon to over $19 million in fiscal year 2022-2023. That figures does not include expected increases in wages and other benefits for existing employees.
Qualified independent contractors that are not city employees are secured from temporary employment agencies to handle short-term, peak-load work assignments or for the processing and construction of public works projects and the delivery of operating, maintenance or specialized professional services not routinely performed by city employees.
The community development department — as an example — has made extensive use of contracted planners to handle increased workload due to growth. The strategy means that when growth slows as it will eventually the city will not be saddled with excessive personnel.
It dovetails into the city’s policy regarding the contracting of services. For example street light maintenance as well as traffic signal maintenance has been handled for years by independent contractors. Periodically, the city will review whether such contracts continue to make sense.
They analyze what it would cost to hire qualified personnel to do the work as well as provide necessary equipment — including boom trucks. Given that it sometimes requires work outside of a normal 40-hour work the flexibility of a contracted service as opposed to having to pay overtime comes into account.
The city also looks at the long range cost in terms of pension liability.
That said the city’s policy makes it clear if fulltime employees are needed when they can make for the most effective delivery of services or — in the case of public safety — they are essential to assure the safety of citizens.
It is against that backdrop the new budget includes 11 new hires including four police officers as well as a part-time position to help move a backlog of park projects forward.
Five positions that were requested were not filled. They are a public safety dispatcher, deputy fire marshal, parks operations coordinator, parks/golf maintenance worker, and an IT administrative assistant.
In addition 19 positions that were requested to be reclassified due to changes in work load and expectations were delayed until after a compensation and classification study that is underway is completed.
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