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Facing Budget Deficit, City Seeks To Maintain Recreation Services Through Cost-Saving Service Providers

As with the efforts to send out a bid for local law enforcement agencies to provide Half Moon Bay's police services, the city has sent out a request to gauge the level of interest of external providers interested in offering its recreational servic

Yoga, weaving, soccer, basketball and Zumba are just some of the nearly 50 classes offered to Coastside residents by Half Moon Bay's Recreation Department from January through March of this year.

It's not quite clear, though, just how many recreational course offerings the city will be offering next January.

Given the city's budget deficit that city leaders have said has the potential to top $1 million in the upcoming fiscal year -- along with the knowledge that no new revenue is anticipated to come in after a was turned down by voters in last year's general election -- the City Council gave direction to former interim City Manager Michael Dolder and his staff last November to explore potential cost-saving models for the recreation department, along with the police department.

Since November, the city has largely been gathering information in regards to determining what the city's options are for offering recreational services, given the city's financial realities. 

As with the police department, Dolder told the city council at a special city council meeting last Nov. that since personnel costs were already lean, the city needed to focus on how it could reorganize its services in a manner that would either cut expenditures, increase revenue, or achieve a combination of both.

For the police department, that has meant sending out a to all law enforcement agencies in San Mateo County with an invitation to providing Half Moon Bay police services -- a move that city leaders have said will give them a number of different options to weigh when , a process that has been extended until June of this year.

For the recreation department, the approach has been similar. A Request for Interest (RFI) released last month invites potential service providers to respond to the city by Feb. 22 and submit "partnership proposals" that will detail the nature and extent of their interest.

The RFI plainly states that those who want to "partner" and offer a recreational class through the city of Half Moon Bay will be expected to shoulder their own insurance costs, including general liability insurance, automobile liability, errors and omissions insurance "appropriate to the consultant's profession," and workers' compensation insurance as required by California. (To see a copy of the RFI, click on the PDF document posted in the media box posted to the right of this story).

Service providers will also be required to conduct evaluations of their own recreational offierings and track/complete reports of the performance data of the classes they teach, according to the RFI.

The provider might also be expected to pay for the use of city facilities for their classes based on rates set by City Manager Laura Snideman. This cost may be based on the amount of fees charged to the public for the class, according to the RFI.

In the RFI, the city states indirectly that in return for making its facilities available for use to alternative service providers, it will "minimize the impact of closed recreation facilities through a service agreement" and "maintain recreational facilities at all opportunities" -- essentially shifting the burden of at least a portion of facility and program costs to service providers.

Councilmember Marina Fraser has also suggested that the city could perform an audit of all the buildings and facilities within their portfolio, as she says the study would provide the City Council with information needed to assess the extent to which buildings are currently used. Such information could presumably provide an impetus to reorganize the housing of services in such a fashion that would maximize cost-savings, if all the city's facilites are not being used in as efficiently as possible.

The city has indicated that all responses to the city's RFI for recreation services will be available to the public for viewing.

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