The Superior City Council begins discussing ways to improve the efficiency of government operations during a special committee of the whole meeting Tuesday, Nov. 12.
The city’s Finance Committee in June approved a proposal by RW Management Group to review of the city’s operation.
“Overall, we find the city well-organized and staffed with individuals who are very committed to providing excellent services, and for the most part, are adequately trained to perform the functions that are asked of them,” the operational analysis written by RW Management Group states.
Despite that, the report identifies 31 areas where the city can improve on its efficiency and effectiveness, starting with developing a strategic operational plan and hiring an administrator to oversee the city’s day-to-day operations, a role that has traditionally fallen on the city’s full-time mayor.
The city already has a mission statement and established goals, which could serve as the starting point for the strategic plan, according to the report.
“Development of a strategic plan should be a priority for 2020,” the report states.
The report also identifies the way city government is managed as an issue.
Superior city government currently operates under a full-time weak mayor-strong council system, with the mayor serving as the city’s head administrator.
However, under that system, the study found many inefficiencies exist in different departments, and addressed some of them on a department-by-department basis. However, the report states the lack of a trained professional to oversee management of the city operations as a contributor to those inefficiencies.
Under Wisconsin law, the city can be managed under three forms of government: city manager, city administrator and full-time mayor.
In 1995, a resident-driven referendum to change the city’s form of government to a manager over a mayor was rejected by nearly 80% of voters.
The city manager form of government is found in only 18 cities and villages in Wisconsin, and it’s a form of government that hasn’t been adopted in several decades because it can be perceived as giving too much power to the manager, according to the report. The majority of municipal governments with a population greater than 5,000 operate with an administrator.
Other recommendations for administering city government include changing the title of mayor’s chief of staff to reflect the duties of the executive assistant, and eliminating a position a marketing-public relations coordinator, a position that was created in 2018 and has never been funded.
“We are not aware of any comparable community that has a marketing/public relations position,” the report states. “In the rare occasion where true marketing or public relations is needed, it is more cost effective to retain the services of a local reputable firm whose specialty is marketing/PR.”
Social media and website duties could be appointed to the executive assistant, the report states.
The analysis also looked at departments individually to identify where positions could be eliminated or better utilized to improve customer service, and where additional staff were needed or contracts could alleviate the strain on overburdened staff, such as in the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department, where duties have continued to grow despite significant cuts over the last 15-20 years.
Technology was also identified as one of the city’s challenges to operations.
The report recommends the city consider a joint IT department with the Douglas County, as well as several areas where software could improve efficiencies in budgeting, payroll and timekeeping, managing building inspection issues, and taking reservations at parks and managing calls for service.
Overall, the recommendations would save the city an estimated $348,000, or about 1% of the budget, adopted by the Council for 2020. The estimated savings did not include the potential costs for citywide software improvements.
The Council begins discussion of the recommendations at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12, in Room 201 of the Government Center.