Outsourcing Parks Could Save $4.7M

In Carlsbad, CA, the city hopes to save up to $4.7 million by outsourcing park maintenance and operations. Inside, details on Carlsbad’s efforts, the needs assessment RFP, and information on the Reason Foundation’s recent Parks 2.0 report on public-private partnerships

What Happened?
The Carlsbad City Council is researching outsourcing options as an alternative management strategy for city park maintenance duties that could save taxpayers up to $4.7 million annually.

So What?
The City Council is gathering bids from different private companies to determine more precise savings forecasts without sacrificing quality of service standards enjoyed in the past. Consultant Baker Tilly Virchow Kraus was hired to implement a Best Value Services Program and seek opportunities to improve services while cutting costs.  The company identified 48 different opportunities with a range of $2.3 million to $4.7 million of annual savings for the city to explore. Some of the recommendations include using private-public partnerships as well as increased use of technology and higher service fees. You can view the RFP for needs assessment here.

National trend
Municipalities across the country are researching similar outsourcing projects, creating public-private partnerships to maintain certain high-quality services to residents while reducing taxpayer costs. The Reason Foundation’s Parks 2.0: Operating State Parks Through Public-Private Partnerships policy study provides municipality leaders with actionable insights on how to advance and develop public programs through cooperation with private providers. The market-based policy initiatives build off principles of limited government, community leadership and public-private coordination.
The policy study drew up a delegation of responsibilities for a public-private partnership that breaks down what tasks are operated by the local government, the private provider or shared between the two:

  • Land ownership: local government management
  • Strategy, planning, park character and facilities: local government management
  • Environmental protection: science, rules-making and education run by local government; mitigation and compliance managed by private provider
  • Recreation activities: oversight and fee approval under local government; operations, staffing and customer service fall to private companies
  • Maintenance and investment: planning controlled by local government; routine maintenance managed by private company; capital investment shared between both entities


Benefits of outsourcing
The policy study also listed the benefits municipalities can enjoy when partnering with public providers for park maintenance including:

  • Financial self-sufficiency
  • Optimal staffing and operations
  • Quality guarantees
  • Accountability
  • Enhanced risk management
  • Increased sources of funding


Parks Canada strategy
The Canadian government recently launched its Parks Canada project that aims to increase outsourcing of services and public-private partnerships to maintain the country’s iconic natural resources and landmarks to increase financial sustainability. The Parks Canada Agency Corporate Plan for 2012-2013 drafted an expenditure profile illustrating how the outsourcing strategy will stay within budget and meet financial goals. The agency’s expenditure remained stable since 2009 is set to decline in 2013 due to increased dependency on IT solutions and partnerships with private companies. Performance indicators measuring expenditure and efficiency include:

  • Percentage of national parks maintained with ecological integrity: develop best practices for environmentally sound operations by March 2013
  • Average of commemorative integrity rating: improve integrity rating from 6/10 by March 2013
  • Percentage of Canadians that use national parks: surpass 65 percent of Canadians connecting with parks by March 2014


Other Outsourcing Projects
In the United States, cities are looking to privatize park operations to increase revenue potential without sacrificing high-quality services and facilities for taxpayers.

About the author


Barry Greenfield

Barry Greenfield is the founder of EfficientGov.com.