LEADERSHIP TEAM MEETING
December 16, 2003
Goodson Room, Public Works
Commissioner Peter Sorenson presided with Warren Wong, Bill Dwyer, Bobby Green, Sr., Don Hampton, Chuck Forster, Doug Harcleroad, Alicia Hays, Lisa Smith, Bill Van Vactor, Teresa Wilson, Howard Schussler, David Suchart, Tony Black, Jan Clements and Recording Secretary Melissa Zimmer were also present.
1. Review Board Goal Setting.
Sorenson reiterated that Lane County would remain a general purpose government and the department directors were directed to prepare the FY 04/05 budget without considering any increase in commissioner sponsored revenue measures. He added in preparing the budget, the department directors were told to optimize existing resources, streamline processes and offer excellence in the services they provide. He noted the direct public services category worksheet (copy in file) contains four of five commissioners who provided guidance for the departments on the preparation of the budget.
2. Review Board Priority Reduction List.
Sorenson stated the department directors had requested guidance from the Board. He noted that Dwyer and Hampton had the across-the-board approach and he and Morrison had provided reductions. He noted the range of cuts went from $4.6 million to $4.5 million in reductions.
Dwyer indicated the Board made a decision that Lane County is not a special purpose government. He recommended across-the-board cuts, as it gives more flexibility to departments. He wanted to build a budget on what works best.
Hampton wanted the departments to report what the cuts would mean to services.
Van Vactor asked if what Sorenson wanted was to calculate the amount of discretionary general fund that a department receives to build its budget. He asked that if departments wanted to raise revenue and other expenses, they would have flexibility that equals $4 million in reductions while keeping the budget balanced.
Sorenson noted the $4 million would be the net reduction, not necessarily $4 million in cuts.
Van Vactor noted that $4 million in reductions would give two years of stability.
Sorenson explained he worked out a scenario where he took an 8.4 percent reduction on the first 34 priorities and applied 10 percent to that. He indicated they would achieve a $4.5 million reduction. He thought one idea would be to take the higher priority areas and apply a lower across-the-board cut to them.
Green stated that they were not being consistent with the Strategic Plan. He thought they were abandoning the plan by going through this exercise. He said what was difficult was the direction they were going and the vision. He noted page 29 of the Strategic Plan stated when service reductions are required, the County will consider elimination of entire services before considering incremental cuts and emphasis will be placed on quality. He added it stated if the County finds that funds were not sufficient to provide a quality service, then the service should be terminated. He noted the Board didn’t use the Strategic Plan to provide to staff with what they wanted to do. He commented they hadn’t addressed the biggest cost driver. He noted revenue is stable, but costs are going up. He asked how they were going to deal with employee benefit costs that continue to grow. He noted they never discussed critical life, health and safety. He wanted to articulate goals instead of making across-the-board cuts.
Morrison thought that after going through the goal setting they were given a specific charge. She noted that no one really followed what they were supposed to do. She indicated that some of her cuts were not realistic. She went over her feedback. (Copy in file). She said they need to be more direct and specific. She didn’t think they could get where they want to be with across-the-board cuts.
Sorenson commented that the across-the-board cuts could be a starting point.
Green commented that the budget is driving the plan, versus the plan driving the budget.
Dwyer stated the department managers will come back with recommendations and they will get a better idea of what the impact would be with the choices they make for cuts. He didn’t want to make the choices, he wanted the individual departments to do that. He said the departments know what the impact of their choices are after making cuts.
Hampton noted the county administrator asked them if Lane County would continue to be a general purpose government. He noted the Strategic Plan says to eliminate services before reducing all services. He asked if Lane County could still be a general purpose government and totally eliminate certain services.
Harcleroad explained general purpose governments are governments that do things mandated by law. He believed that Lane County is a general purpose government. He said they couldn’t be all things to all people at all times. He said they have to prioritize because their resources are limited.
Black said when they are looking at across-the-board cuts with a central service, they are getting conflicting goals between the customers. He noted by cutting certain areas of Information Services, they are cutting the departments further. He noted there are three departments requesting additional staffing and committing the funds to do it. He added that two of the positions are general fund positions. He said he could not possibly satisfy everyone.
Rockstroh didn’t agree with mandated budgets. He thought across-the-board cuts was not a smart idea. He said they spent the past year prioritizing services. He thought they should use the Strategic Plan.
Green thought they should establish the priorities and strategies around public safety and then have departments go back and work with them.
Smith said her concern is the prioritization and costs in the list from last year. She said it doesn’t take into consideration the February 3 issue. She said the list from last year doesn’t reflect what is going on this year with state money or the grants that were going away.
Clements thought goal setting was what they were trying to accomplish with service delivery, as opposed to how to reduce a budget. He said that Lane County abdicated its responsibility to be a general service government. He noted that Lane County had chronically underfunded through property taxes its general services responsibility. He said there had no been research on a longer term vision. He noted that Lane County had done little in terms of marketing. He added there hadn’t been any strategies in connecting with constituents and demonstrating customer service as the optimum value for Lane County. He suggested moving to a cut that is compelling, based on fiscal realities. He said they determined that public safety was a priority. He said because public safety occupies 70 percent of the general fund, there should be a countywide public safety district, including prosecuting, Youth Services, the Sheriff’s Office and Parole and Probation. He added that Springfield and Eugene are interested. He wanted to create a countywide service district with a separate elected Board of Directors. He thought that Lane County should get out of the law enforcement business as there had been a crisis of confidence and the voters will recognize it. He added this should be dedicated money that can’t be used for anything else other than public safety. He said there were aggressive things that could be done if they had the goals for what they want to accomplish in a reasonable period of time. He thought they could also get a legislative change in 2006 that allows for a split rate that would allow for rural patrol off the general fund and those in rural areas to pay more. He said if the voters are against this, then they will know where they stand.
Sorenson suggested that the organization stay engaged in the problems of children and families.
Clements believed that it was warranted in Eugene and Springfield to identify things that could be consolidated. He said it could be funded as part of a public safety district. He stated that the City of Eugene is concerned about the lack of participation of the Sheriff’s Office INET portion, because of the change in forfeiture laws. He thought that INET could also be funded out of the district. He thought Lane County would suffer as an organization in attempting to deliver services if they didn’t have adequate resources.
Sorenson thought they could look for review without an across-the-board property or income tax increase. He asked what the timeline would be.
Van Vactor responded that if they receive a target range for each department to do reductions to get a net discretionary general fund amount of money to build their budget, the next step for Management Team is to go over the calendar to see when the budget instructions would go out. He said the departments would build a budget with at least $500,000 of funds available for restoration. He said the departments would determine the highest priority to restore and deliver a proposed budget in the beginning of April, then the Budget Committee would enter into deliberations.
Garnick noted they wanted to bring back the ending fund balance issue and Moody’s rating before they send out the instructions that could affect the bottom line.
Sorenson noted the Board gave Management Team the feedback they asked for. He reiterated the ideas including the public safety service district and reviewing employee benefits. He said the departments would put together a budget that uses some add-backs for public review in March. He noted the public process for the budget would be in April. He added that they might hear from the legislature regarding Measure 30 and they might have to cut the budget to implement those cuts.
Alex Gardner, Deputy District Attorney, commented that when making across-the-board cuts, the expectations are lower. He said there are fewer line people in the District Attorney’s office and more crimes. He added there are fewer jail beds to book into. He noted if they keep taking cuts across-the-board, there would be mediocrity as there wouldn’t be enough time to spend on cases.
Sorenson noted the Board was not advocating an across-the-board cut, he said they have said they would have an overall $4.5 million reduction in the discretionary general fund and they were asking the departments to come up with that number.
Rockstroh indicated that page 25 of the Strategic Plan contains the highest priorities, which are critical life and safety. He thought that was a good direction to take.
Van Vactor explained the departments would get a target based upon the charts and when they build a budget, they will use the priorities that are identified in the Strategic Plan.
Garnick said what they would be doing is going back to departments asking what the priorities are and bringing them back to the Budget Committee. He said they might not know what the priorities are until May. He wanted to clarify what those priorities are.
Van Vactor stated they would build a budget and present a proposed balanced budget using 8.08 percent, having $500,000 available for restoration. He noted the Budget Committee could re-prioritize anything they wanted.
Hampton thought the departments could use the Strategic Plan to prepare their budgets. He thought they had to consider what the public was demanding. He thought their demands might not be the same as the department’s priorities. He said the Board has to be sensitive to what the public is telling them. He wanted to have a discussion about Lane County’s future.
There being no further business, Commissioner Sorenson adjourned the meeting at 11:30 a.m..