Req. Mgr. report on potential of implementing a variant of CitiStat model in Lowell.

Motion approved on January 12, 2010.

City Manager’s Response:

FROM: Bernard F. Lynch, City Manager
DATE: February 5, 2010


In response to the above-mentioned City Council motion I have prepared this memo that outlines how a Citistat-like program could be implemented within Lowell. I have also attached a report entitled “CitiStat: A Management Tool for Accountability, Efficiency and Results” prepared by Keith Vaillancourt, a graduate intern from the UMass Lowell Regional Economic and Social Development program who is currently working in the City Manager’s Office. The purpose of this report is to outline the history and utilization of a statistics oriented performance management system in municipal government in order that Council members and the public would have a full understanding of how such systems have developed and the manner in which an implementation of such a system could provide benefits to the City.

As most members of the Council may recall I described the desirability of a stat program in the FY08 budget and indicated that the creation of a plan to implement such a program would be a central responsibility of the Assistant to the City Manager who was hired in that budget. Over the course of the following two years the City at zero cost became active in a statewide MassStat effort with other municipalities and began developing our own base for a LowellStat program. However, a full rollout of the program was delayed by a focus on the FY09 and FY10 budgets and the subsequent loss of the Assistant position.

I truly appreciate the Council’s recent vote to restore funding of the Assistant’s position which will enable us to continue progress towards the stat effort as well as other management oriented efforts and greater effectiveness in overall operations. I also am very appreciative of the Council’s vote to request this report on implementing a LowellStat program. I interpret the vote of the Council to be support for getting this project back on track towards full implementation.

The attached report and Councilor Murphy’s description in filing this motion explain the value of using performance measurement data as a management tool. We routinely use data to drive many of our decisions though not as robustly as envisioned by a comprehensive performance measurement system.

I have also attached a column by Lowell Sun Editor Jim Campanini which was published on August 11, 2009 that recommends that municipalities follow the example of Springfield in utilizing data as a management tool to achieve cost effective operations. I am happy to say that Lowell was in the forefront of this effort by initiating our efforts in FY08. However, our effort to move forwards without fully dedicated staff and an allocation of appropriate resources did not allow us to realize implementation. Clearly, the Springfield Control Board with extraordinary legal and budgetary authority had more opportunities to institute this system and realize its benefits. Control Board’s Executive Director, Stephen Lisauskas is quoted in the Campanini column as stating, “For every $1 we spend on collecting and analyzing data, we saved $7 in government efficiencies.” These numbers are consistent with similar efforts in Baltimore and Somerville, as cited by Councilor Murphy in making the motion that requested the administration look to fully implement a LowellStat program.

While I have identified numerous areas in which the administration has produced revenues and reduced expenditures I remain convinced that implementation of a Stat program will wring further savings from our operations and provide a useful tool for conveying information on City operations to the City Council and the public.

Through the efforts of the former Assistant to the City Manager we were able to lay the groundwork for almost immediate implementation of a stat model. This has been made possible through the Assistant’s efforts along with interns from the UMass Lowell RESD program and our active participation in the MassStat initiative that has been driven by several communities including Lowell and the UMass Boston Collins Center. Our efforts have also been recognized and supported by the Pioneer Institute which has worked on a similar stat initiative.

When fully applied each City department/function will be analyzed on certain hard data measurements including resource allocation and utilization (i.e. personnel time or finances) or input, and performance or outputs. The data is dynamic as it will be compared over time to other periods in order to determine trends and changes that could be positive or negative. Our work with other communities also enables us to compare our data with other communities in order to determine “best practices” which could be put into place within the City. All of the data will be the focus of regular discussion and review by the senior management team in order to determine strengths and weaknesses that require modification of operations. Departments will be held to explaining the data and executing any required actions to impact deficiencies.

In the spring of 2009, the principal question for realizing a LowellStat program was the resources required to implement the program. To a very large extent our technology requirements for such a program are already in place as is our data collection. The challenge will be rolling out the program department by department with the required, or desired, metrics to be captured. Further, the data collected needs to be analyzed and researched, including operational modifications. Unfortunately, this is one of those areas of management capacity that is deficient within the City organization. Individual departments do not have analytical capabilities and the central administration within the City Managers and Finance Office are very much lacking in staff support in this area. A review of other municipal executive and finance offices indicates much stronger staffing.

For these reasons it is imperative that staff be designated to provide analysis and research to the Manager via the Assistant; or to the Chief Financial Officer in the preparation and implementation of the budget. While other communities, such as Somerville and Springfield have added upwards of four new positions to staff their Stat offices I believe a more restricted approach be utilized at the outset though subject to future modifications of expansion if deemed necessary, or elimination if deemed that the program is not fully beneficial.

I am proposing that the City create one Management Analyst position within the City Manager’s office to create the Stat system and compile and analyze the resultant data. To this end I have submitted a proposal to the Council to establish the position within the Personnel Ordinance at an annual salary of $40,000-$60,000. I have attached a proposed position description. If created I intend to fund the position through the City Manager Contingency account.

I would propose to initiate the Stat program immediately and review its success and deficiencies in three years to determine whether it should be continued or abandoned. I do anticipate regular updates for the City Council pertaining to initiation and implementation. Beyond its benefit as a management tool the Stat program will prove very useful in developing a more performance oriented budget as recommended by the Government Finance Officer’s Association (GFOA). To this end the Council can be expected to see the data that results from the Stat system as a key part of future budgets though possibly not in time for FY11. As a side note I believe the GFOA recommended budget format should be used by the City Administration in developing and presenting the annual City budget however, it is necessary to have Council support for such an effort.

In closing, I do remain firm in my belief that a LowellStat effort will reap important dividends in managing with limited resources, delivering valued City services and informing the Council and citizenry regarding City operations and resource allocation. I appreciate the Council’s support for such efforts and am prepared to answer any inquiries regarding this matter.

1. “CitiStat: A Management Tool for Accountability, Efficiency and Results” K. Vaillancourt
2. Data/Management Analyst Job Description
3. 08.11.09 Campanini, Lowell Sun, “Taxpayers Not Unions Come First in Reforming Budgets”

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