Youth Board backs RFP for possible outsourcing, but wants city to keep in-house program 'on the table'
A citizen advisory committee supports fast-tracking a request for proposal to outsource youth services for the City of Batavia, but hopes the city would consider managing its afterschool and summer recreation programs if none of the applications received are accepted.
During a Zoom videoconferencing meeting on Tuesday afternoon, Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski and County/City Youth Bureau Executive Director Jocelyn Sikorski reviewed a six-page RFP with the City Youth Board.
The document, drafted by Sikorski, is earmarked to be sent out on Dec. 21 to local organizations interested in providing youth services to the city for the 2021-22 fiscal year that begins on April 1.
David Twichell, president; Paula Fischer, Kristen Gloskowski, and City Council liaison Al McGinnis represented the City Youth Board at the meeting.
“So, I guess that we're doing this as a cost-saving measure,” Fischer said, framing the city’s decision to move from an in-house operation to contracting with an outside agency. “Obviously, if things come in and aren’t a cost savings, we as a board would like to see what we could do within a budgeted amount … taking the 20-percent cut or whatever … to replace a youth coordinator, director … and hiring back part-time staff at the Liberty Center and running the program in the summer like we have in the past.”
The Liberty Center for Youth on the St. Anthony’s campus of City Church on Liberty Street serves as the city’s afterschool location.
“That is still on the table I would imagine,” she said. “I guess my question is that we’re putting out the RFP, but there still is that alternative that we don’t accept any of them and go back to running it in-house like we have for years.”
Tabelski countered by saying that it would be best to make that determination after receiving RFPs, adding, “I would hope that we find a suitable proposal.”
Sikorski concurred, stating that the city has the right to refuse any proposal, “but I think that we have community-based organizations that are capable of providing this service in Genesee County, who can make it work fiscally, not only to maintain the level that we’ve had, but also to save the city money, honestly.”
Twichell: Keep an In-House Plan on the Table
At this point, Twichell summarized the youth board’s position that it would like the city to keep its options open.
“We understand that the RFP is a good attempt to save the city money but we just want to have that left on the table that if push comes to shove, and the RFPs don’t pan out, then we might be able to set up, like we used to have it (although) we might have to reduce services at certain parks or whatever,” he said.
As far as filling vacant youth positions in the city, McGinnis said in a difficult budget year, Council wouldn’t be able to guarantee that this year.
Twichell responded, “We would like to make it aware that youth services, now, is the only department in the city without any staff.”
Tabelski explained that youth services are not classified as a city department, but are under the umbrella of administration, supervised by the assistant city manager (which is vacant at this time).
That prompted Fischer to ask if some of the administrative staff could be reassigned to the Liberty Center “like we did with (former employee) Lydia (Schauf) when we reassigned her to the YMCA during the pandemic when the youth center was closed.”
Tabelski said that Civil Service job descriptions prevented that from happening, but Fischer maintained that youth services, with a budget of around $234,000 (out of a $24 million city budget) shouldn’t “bear the brunt of your budget woes.”
“I don’t think that hiring one youth coordinator is going to break the bank or the budget,” she said. “And we’re talking about five or six part-time people … there’s a lot of different things that we could look at.”
Participation Fees: To Pay or Not to Pay
All agreed that the objective is to continue existing youth programs for Batavia and Genesee County, and the RFP incorporates that by listing eight key components: creative arts; library, media and technology; activities that include science, math and technology; homework help/tutoring; recreation and sports; science and nature; indoor and outdoor activities, and snacks/meals.
“There also is an assessment process to determine that the agency is meeting program goals and objectives, and continuing to participate with the county youth bureau,” Sikorski said. “We do several things collaboratively between the city and the county, and that relationship should continue.”
She mentioned events such as youth recognition awards, youth leaders conference, annual youth conference, and National Night Out. An outside agency running the program would have to comply with performance measures.
Cost to participants also came up, with Fischer pointing out a section on page 3 of the RFP that indicated “no, or very low cost to the City of Batavia families” for summer recreation.
“I am pretty sure the direction of City Council was that there would be no cost to families,” said Fischer, who, in recent weeks, has spoken out against what she perceives as the city’s rush to bring in another organization, such as the Genesee Area YMCA, to run the youth program.
Tabelski said she was not opposed to eliminating “very low cost” and leaving it as “no cost” for the summer rec program.
Fischer said she didn’t think it would be fair to have a city taxpayer have to pay an additional fee for their child or children to participate in city youth functions.
“I don’t think a city taxpayer should have to pay for their child to go – if you’re paying your city taxes, that should be it,” she said. “So, people paying taxes could be taxed again to send their kid to a parks program where someone else is getting it paid by their town or getting a sliding fee scale.”
Sikorski advised that if they go the route of “no cost,” then it would be free to all participants across the board “because if the town is contributing like they have for decades to that cost, then it’s applicable to everybody.”
“Working with other municipal recreation programs, there was at one point in time where our rules and regulations stated that they could not charge; (that) none of our programs could charge a fee,” Sikorski offered. “That changed in the early 2000s, and luckily a lot of our recreation programs do not charge. Some of them may ask for a donation for field trips or a small fee per week depending upon their child. And I’m talking small, I mean minimal, like $5 per kid.”
Scoring Based Upon Selection Criteria
McGinnis said the RFP needs to go out as soon as possible with the city’s 2021-22 proposed budget due to City Council by mid-January.
“We have a very tough budget this year … and this being a piece of it, we have to know where we stand,” he said.
Fischer, Twichell and Gloskowski said they were satisfied with the RFP and the timeline.
Tabelski noted that the RFP does not include a cost for these services.
“The reason you do an RFP is to find competitive pricing for services, so we don’t dictate a price to the market, we let the market come back to us,” she said.
She said the plan is to form a selection team after the RFP deadline of Jan. 15 -- with the Youth Board as part of that team -- to score the proposals, using a matrix that awards points for each of items in the selection criteria, as follows:
- The eligible agency’s capacity to effectively, efficiently and immediately provide needed service, program design and developmentally appropriate programs;
- The eligible agency’s proposal to meet the goals and objectives of the City of Batavia’s Youth Service & Recreation Plan;
- The price of service;
- The ease of utilization and accessibility of the Program to parents;
- The capacities to provide ongoing staff development, staff availability, qualifications, rate of turn over, ability to fill vacancies;
- The documentation that all applicable health and safety codes and licensure or registration requirements are met;
- The fiscal solvency of the agency;
- The capacity and experience in serving children with disabilities;
- The capacity and experience in serving children and their parents where they are Limited English Proficient.
Tabelski said RFPs are operational and issued by the city manager or Department of Public Works, for example. Approvals are made by City Council once the RFP process is completed.
In this case, the selected agency, as well as those not chosen, are to be notified by Feb. 5.