Fresno budget dilemma: Keep printing in-house or outsource?

Fresno City Councilman Sal Quintero questioned city finance director Michael Lima on Wednesday about plans to outsource the city’s printing services.
Fresno City Councilman Sal Quintero questioned city finance director Michael Lima on Wednesday about plans to outsource the city’s printing services. Fresno Bee file photo

Plans to outsource printing services were the source of tension Wednesday among City Council members and city officials during the second day of hearings on Fresno’s 2017 budget.

The proposed budget includes an intention to issue a request for proposal to outsource the city’s printing services by November. The city has two workers devoted to printing materials used by the council, mayor and other offices at City Hall.

“The plan is to issue the RFP in July, get proposals through August, make an evaluation, come back to council in late September, early October, and with implementation happening around Nov. 1,” said finance director Michael Lima.

Lima said the decision to outsource was made because it would have been necessary to hire a supervisor for the two-person central printing unit, which is being supervised by the purchasing manager.

“But then we started looking at the workload – and the workload, frankly, doesn’t justify a third person,” Lima said. “To give you an idea, in FY ’13, central printing processed 1,037 jobs. In FY ’15, that dropped to 856. In the space of two years, the workload has dropped 17.5 percent in that unit.”

Councilman Sal Quintero questioned Lima on whether it was necessary to hire a supervisor or if one of the current employees could be made the manager. Quintero also questioned how the copying of confidential documents from the City Attorney’s Office would be done under privatized printing services.

Lima said each department would have the capacity to handle internal confidential documents.

Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria said that outsourcing printing in the past has resulted in issues involving quality.

“I think as the council, we are big beneficiaries of these services,” Soria said. “I know my staff, personally, has great relationships with folks in the print shop. The only problems that actually arose was when we outsourced, and that was horrible for us.

“We didn’t get turnaround,” she said. “My business cards took forever. There were mistakes. I’m not comfortable outsourcing.”

No action was taken on the printing-unit matter.

Around $8.3 million is proposed for the finance department for 2017, an increase of around 1 percent over the previous year. Included in the budget was funding for 60.75 full-time-equivalent positions.

Mayor Ashley Swearengin’s overall budget is $1.1 billion, which includes beefed-up spending on basic services such as the police and fire departments, parks maintenance, code enforcement and street paving.

The budget covers the 2016-17 fiscal year that will begin July 1. But the budget will be subject to approval and changes by the City Council.

Spending from the city’s general fund, the pot of money from which much of Fresno’s day-to-day services are supported, is proposed to be $293.2 million – up about 6.9 percent from the 2015-16 budget. Departments supported by the general fund include police and fire, parks, development/planning and administrative services, such as the mayor’s and City Council offices, city clerk, city attorney, finance and human resources.

Wednesday’s hearing included discussions on the mayor’s and city manager’s offices, City Council offices and airports.

Each council member is budgeted to get $262,000 for operations.

The budget for the airports division is decreasing by $9.4 million to $33.2 million, a 22 percent decrease from 2016. Most of the decrease is attributable to the completion of the $11 million west ramp project, which was awarded last year.

The budget provides for 96.35 full-time equivalent positions, or 103 positions total, for airports, said Jane Sumpter, budget director.

Soria said she appreciated the $208,600 that was appropriated for electric vehicle charging stations in the airport parking lot, and asked City Manager Bruce Rudd if there were plans for setting up charging stations in other parts of the city.

Rudd’s answer was essentially no. The city would have to fund the stations, he said, and would end up paying for the electricity used by someone else.

“You could consider taxing oxygen,” Councilman Steve Brandau joked.

Razi Syed: 559-441-6679, @razisyed

Fresno budget hearings

Tuesday, June 14: Parks, after-school, recreation and community services, police, fire, public utilities

Wednesday, June 15: Convention center, general city purpose, public works

Tuesday, June 21: Council vote on motions made during budget hearings

Thursday, June 16, will be used as an overflow day, if needed.

Hearings start at 9:30 a.m. and are held in council chambers at City Hall.