Notes and Feedback From June 30 Commission Workshop in Pahokee

I was not able to attend the entire Commissioner Workshop on Thursday in Pahokee, but the following are my notes from the discussion:

Programs identified as potential areas for budget cuts by Robert Weisman and the Commissioners:

  • 4-H
  • Children’s programs
  • Park services
  • Drug & alcohol treatment / recovery
  • Consumer Affairs
  • Pools
  • Life guards at the beach
  • No increase in funds for economic development
  • Events at County amphitheatres

The Commissioners expressed concern and would prefer not to reduce these services.

Feedback to Mr. Weisman and the Commissioners:  Drop the political jargon and start cutting overhead.  Rather than considering a “small” tax increase, your strategy should be to create a budget surplus.  The economic issues we are facing will not go away in a year or two.  A budget surplus is not a pipe dream.  It is possible if you have the will…. And you do not need to reduce services that are valued by your constituents.  Just eliminate waste:  Insist that Mr. Weisman increase productivity, eliminate positions that do not create direct value for constituents, and find synergies between Mr. Weisman’s responsibility functions.

You should also make peace with the Constitutional Officers.  They are the Commissions peers, not Mr. Weisman’s peers.  The Chair of the Commission should take the lead to open communications and build trust.  There are massive synergies that can be achieved through shared services of information technology, fleet management, real estate management, procurement of commodities, logistics, telecommunications, and other support functions.

Cruzan Amphitheater losses – If you have not attended concerts at Cruzan you should:

  • Great entertainment which is often sold out…. Hmm…. Maybe we should raise the ticket price?
  • The prices of concessions are similar to that charged at a Dolphins game.  The quality of the product and service is substandard.  Needs quality and price gouging oversight by the County + check to make sure that the County is receiving a fair share of the concession revenue.
  • Alcohol sales are incredible, with literally wheel barrels full of beer carted throughout the venue.  Sounds like fun for boomers…. But at what cost on the road after the event?  Checking ID’s: right!  Interestingly, I’ve never seen a sobriety check point on Southern Blvd after an event. I guess we want to make sure that the vendors don’t get in trouble.

Mr. Weisman:

  • We are not going to reduce staff.  Layoffs will be avoided.
  • Cut the Sheriff’s budget….. no further cuts in his budget
  • Questions value of drug and alcohol program, given low success rate

Feedback to Mr. Weisman:

  • The County Administrator and Commissioners have a fiduciary responsibility to reduce staff when work volumes decline.  There is also a fiduciary responsibility to establish best in class processes, training, and technology to advance productivity while at least maintaining current levels of service to the public.  You should ask an unemployed homeowner whether he/she believes their tax payments should be used to retain County employees that are not required or could be laid off without a significant change in the quality of service delivered to the public.
  • Any position that is not directly involved in meeting the needs of the public should be subject to elimination.  The County Administrator should be a role model by taking a voluntary salary reduction, requiring all employees (and encouraging constitutional officers to do the same) to take one unpaid furlough day per month for the entire budget cycle. Martin County instituted such a program some time ago:  Reduced operating expenses by between $1 and 2 million during the fiscal year (approximately 900 employees).  Feedback from their employees was mixed, but I understand that most agreed that they would rather reduce their compensation than layoff massive numbers of employees.  By the way, Martin County also reduced their staff levels during this same period.
  • Drug and alcohol programs:  Mr. Weisman should talk to the people that manage these programs to learn that relapse is the norm.  Many people relapse more than 10 times before recovery.  Of course, he should review the effectiveness of the County program and consider alternative means of delivery (private sector) to insure that cost and quality is effective.

Commissioner Taylor:

  • Inspector General is spending $3.4 million even now that we have ethics policies
  • Need to replace break walls
  • Need to rebuild bridges
  • A tax increase to balance the budget is insignificant:  $.04 per taxpayer per day….. Most will accept it rather than reduce service levels.

Feedback to Commissioner Taylor:

  • Palm Beach County has a national reputation that will not easily be overcome.  Our reputation is a significant disadvantage for job creation and economic development.  I am thankful that we have an Inspector General.  It is up to elected officials to demonstrate that they can be trusted.
  • If increasing taxes is “not that big a deal”, then reducing the expenditures to balance the budget is “not that big of a deal?”
  • I understand you have a survey at your website asking people if they would rather reduce services than increase tax rates.  There should be a third option:  Don’t increase taxes and maintain current service levels.
  • I agree that infrastructure like aging bridges and break walls are important.  This should also be taken into consideration when the County evaluates new infrastructure, including parks, community centers, and the beaches.  A question that needs to be addressed:  Can we afford the upkeep cost of infrastructure?

Performance Measurement

This is a great topic.  I have reviewed Mr. Weisman’s recent performance measurement report provided to Commissioner Marcus.  The information included in the report is solely units of activity, not performance.  Performance measurement should track productivity, cost per unit, and quality of work (error free work flow – rework is very expensive) of the most important aspects of a person, department and/or organization.  In the private sector such measures are called key performance indicators (KPI’s).

The Commissioner discussion included comparing groups like to Sheriff’s Office to other municipalities. Benchmarking should only be based on best in class, and it should not be limited to government comparisons.

Prepared by Dale Gregory

Boca Raton, Florida

July 1, 2011

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