Six of 147 thrifty ways Phoenix saved $100 million

By Bill Gates, Phoenix City Councilman

When the recession struck about seven years ago, it quickly became clear that Phoenix needed to find a leaner, more financially sustainable way to provide city services.

As chair of the city council’s Finance, Efficiency, Environment and Sustainability Subcommittee, my council colleagues and I have had the responsibility of tracking and guiding the work of the city’s Innovation & Efficiency Task Force.

Comprised of representatives form a broad cross section of private industry and heads of city departments, the task force set out to identify ways to reduce spending and create a smaller, more efficient city government.

The task force and the city just celebrated a major milestone — surpassing $100 million in total efficiencies and savings.

Finding $100 million in savings

With a combination of strategic rightsourcing, administrative and operational streamlining, rebid contracts for a variety of city services and organizational costs, we’re stretching taxpayer dollars farther than ever before.

This major savings milestone is a good opportunity to look back at the innovation and efficiency measures the city has implemented that have preserved services and helped us keep water, sewer and solid waste rates steady. Below are some highlights of efficiency measures the city has implemented. They provide a good cross section of where we found savings so far.

Public Safety

The Phoenix Municipal Court, City Prosecutor’s Office and Police Department collaborated to enhance the communication process with domestic violence victims that not only assists in the prosecution of these cases, but also frees up police officers and reduces overtime costs, for a savings estimated at $500,000 annually.

Using skilled staff familiar with Phoenix’s emergency transportation needs, the Fire Department refurbished 46 existing ambulance units onto new chassis. The innovative practice extends the life of these ambulance vehicles by three life cycles, or 15 years, saving $3.9 million.

Curbside trash/recycling

The city’s Public Works Department reorganized the city’s curbside trash and recycling to switch from separate day to same-day collection. By collecting trash and recycling on the same day, we’re saving $2.3 million annually.

Parks

The Parks Department implemented enhanced water irrigation technology in city parks, significantly reducing water usage and saving about $500,000 annually in the initial phase of the effort. Further annual savings are expected as the program expands citywide. Aside from the savings, we’re also using an important and precious resource more carefully and efficiently than ever before.

Citywide fleet management

Several departments including the City Manager’s Office and Public Works, Finance and Budget & Research have worked together to identify and dispose of underutilized vehicles citywide, saving on maintenance costs, reducing replacement needs, and producing sale proceeds. As a result of the first phase, the City saved about $400,000 annually. A vehicle review continues each year and will be expanded to include identification of underutilized heavy equipment with further savings expected.

Public transit/city services

The Public Transit Department transitioned the Senior Center Shuttle program from “Reserve-A-Ride” vans to a taxicab-based voucher program, resulting in enhanced rider experience and an annual savings of $823,000.

This is just a small sample of the 147 innovation and efficiency measures totaling more than $103 million implemented so far, but you can view the full list of 146 efficiency measures online at phoenix.gov/citymanager/innovation-and-efficiency.

Need for thrift continues

Our financial challenges are not over at the city. There are more tough decisions in the years ahead, but nearly $103 million in efficiency savings have created a leaner more efficient city operation, kept water and trash rates steady and helped preserve vital city services.

I pledge that my subcommittee will continue to spearhead and drive the agenda on innovation and efficiency savings.