BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS'
December 9, 2003
Public Works, Training Room 3
Commissioner Peter Sorenson presided with Commissioners Bill Dwyer, Bobby Green, Sr., Don Hampton and Anna Morrison present. County Administrator Bill Van Vactor and Recording Secretary Melissa Zimmer were also present. Randy Harrington was the facilitator.
1. GOAL SETTING
- Review past Goals and Accomplishments
- Set Organizational Goals
Dwyer requested information on the line staff-to-management ratio for all departments and to find out if any other counties in the state have limited service government. He thought that management was top heavy.
Van Vactor stated that Washington County indicated in their Strategic Plan that they would not be all things for all people.
Dwyer asked if the Board decided not to keep a program, what would happen to it. He wanted to know if there were a mechanism by which someone could assume the responsibility, how the mechanism would be put in place and where the funding would come from to assume the responsibility.
Green stated they needed to discuss the Boardís prime interest and who is responsible technically and legally.
Morrison wanted more specific action-oriented goals where people could see what the Board is doing.
Sorenson was against the statement that Lane County is a limited purpose government. He thought they should be a general purpose government to respond to the needs of the community. He thought they needed to cultivate entrepreneurship of business as an economic underpinning.
Harrington indicated that one of the themes he heard at Performance Counts last week was that staff wanted to be part of something aggressive and they believed in the people they work for. He added they wanted clarity and were willing to move forward to make tough choices about the budget. He thought the process could be clarified if it was a coherent, single vision frame from the Board.
Morrison stated they couldnít be everything to everybody. She said they should provide what they can provide, using the Charter as their guideline. She commented they do a lot of things that are not mandated because some special interest groups ask them to do it.
Dwyer said the charter states Lane County is a general purpose government. He said if people didnít want to fund services, he was not afraid to cut them. He commented the voters were given opportunities and they constantly reject them. He was not afraid to move forward.
Hampton stated that because of the financial crisis, it might be time to redefine what the role of Lane County is. He said they have to make financial decisions about what they can afford. He said they have a function to provide customer service and they will have to define what they can do to provide service. He added there is an internal component where people are surviving as an organization. He thought that was the first place they should look. He didnít want to cut customer service first, but to cut things that they could do without and still exist as an organization. He commented that government in general has done a poor job of relating taxes to services and also crying wolf and still delivering the services. He said they are at a point where they need to be communicating to the citizens.
Morrison stated the voters are telling the Board at the ballot box that they need to re-look at Lane County government.
Dwyer stated the people have to see a reaction before they will acquiesce that there is a problem. He added they would have to be impacted by it before they will agree that there is a problem. He said the Board always says there is a problem but they donít impact the delivery of service and then would never be able to gain credibility.
Harrington stated that the Board is at a threshold and they have to come up with some other justification or framework for keeping the status quo or they are going to have to change. He thought it was about the execution of the issue as it relates to new taxation on voters and the lack of getting something done.
Dwyer said what they thought the voters would vote for didnít work. He said they have to try every way within their means to make things works and if they donít work, they need to make adjustments to the system before they try to sell anything, as that is the only way to demonstrate the need.
Harrington noted what came out of the meeting last week was a failure on the part of the Board that they were doing a poor job of communicating something in such a way that it is actionable to administration. He thought there are conversations that make sense to the Board that are not being expressed in a way that could be given with clarity.
Sorenson suggested when departments prepare their agenda packets that they could make a reference to the Strategic Plan in the agenda memo. He recommended stating that the Board would do the best they can without asking voters for more money.
Dwyer stated they need to be creative and to take advantage of every grant opportunity they can.
Harrington noted the positive statement from the Board was that in 2004 the Lane County Board of Commissioners would not go to the voters for more money.
Morrison suggested that if there was a citizen generated effort that they would not prohibit that effort.
Dwyer agreed with a citizen initiative.
Green asked if that was a majority of the Boardís position, how they move ahead with the mounting financial deficit.
Harrington commented that the Board had to act. He added the Board couldnít know everything they need to know to act rationally. He said the Board couldnít predict how other variables will be played out, like the economy. He said that the Board could not act as a choice. He noted what drives the decision making is their values and emotions. He thought what was needed is a clarification of the value frame.
Sorenson thought they needed to protect vulnerable citizens
Sorenson commented that the short-term gains that could be made by the partnerships and grant funding for services should be encouraged. He said they have to be direct that if the money goes away, the service goes away. He noted the Management Team recommended seeking regional or consolidated service delivery in partnership with cities and special districts. He thought the County should take an affirmative role in consolidating services that are presently provided by cities. He added that law enforcement was an area where they could combine services with the County Sheriff as the administrator of that system.
Green said they have to set up a financial plan and determine where priorities are and work toward them. He said they have discretion of $50 million where 70% is public safety that could be redirected. He wanted a discussion on what the Board had control over.
Sorenson said they should force an internal examination by the preparation of the budget without the escape valve of going out to the voters. He said they have to discuss what they can do with the limited money. He thought it would be better process if the preparation of the budget reflected the choices that were really available to the Budget Committee.
Morrison said they could move some discretionary funds. She added they could take funds from the state level that are designated for specific purposes and re-prioritize them. She didnít want the budget process to be dragged out. She noted there were things they put back into the budget that were taken out.Sorenson suggested that they could turn to the public for discussions on what the cuts would be and where the money is going. He thought they could educate the public through a series of outward moves about the degree of difficulty the Board is facing and then prepare the budget based upon the feedback they receive. He wanted to see a more data driven budget process.
Harrington stated he heard that for the next budget, the Board was saying to focus on efficiency issues. He added the Board made an agreement not to go back out to the voters
In light of the budget picture, Dwyer commented there was not a likelihood of a COLA. He said they should consolidate and take advantage of maximizing the delivery of their services. He thought they could look into reducing hours of services that would not negatively impact the delivery of essential services. He thought they should review the acceleration of retirements so they could reduce the work force using attrition. He wanted to give these directions so the Management Team could develop a program that would implement them. He wanted to find out what the bottom line was and what they need to do in order to increase or enhance the bottom line.
Harrington recalled what the Board wanted management to do was to take every available step to optimize their resources as it relates to the real challenges that Lane County is facing and net it out to the bottom line.
Van Vactor commented that the Strategic Plan gives direction. He said in his initial cover memo, he discussed the fact that the County has funding priorities. He noted those services address immediate life safety. He added the second funding priority is services that are a direct response to the Countyís broad goals. He said as a Management Team they worked through a list of reduction criteria that would get them to build a budget.
Sorenson stated the Board would rather reduce the level of service than wholesale elimination of a program in a four-year budget crisis. He thought technological innovation would go a long way in the area of voting and property tax payments where they provide services.
Dwyer wanted to have a countywide SLED where the budgetary aspects are controlled by a special district so the resources they pay for the Sheriff could go for something else.
With regard to resource allocation in the Strategic Plan, Van Vactor said when service reductions are required; the County will consider the elimination of entire services before considering incremental cuts. He added that emphasis would be placed on quality. He said if the County finds that funds are not sufficient to provide quality service, then the service may be terminated or the County may limit the number of recipients of the service instead of cutting the quality of the service.
Harrington asked the Board if they agreed with the statement that administration is directed to prepare the 04/05 Budget without considering any increases in voter approved revenues to optimize existing resources, to streamline processes and offer excellence in the services they do provide.
The Board agreed.
Harrington said the Board had to work parallel with the effort at a philosophical level and as an effort to try to create a more coherent vision from the Board. He asked the Board to put in writing the desired cuts and what services were sacred, coming to agreement about the relative priorities. He said it needs to be articulated to the Management Team and the messages needed to be shared consistently as a group so they have a united front when they make the cuts. He said they are asking people to optimize, innovate and no trade offs for fundamental quality for the services they provide. He said the Board wanted to make sure that Lane County was offering services at a quality level. He said the Board is not backing away from a general purpose government framework philosophically, but they are acknowledging that the voters had said no more. taxes. He asked what a general purpose government is in a budgetary shortfall and framework. He said the Board would articulate what the cuts would be in a process. He said the outcome would be about the 04/05 Budget and the message to the voters. He said the Board shouldnít relinquish the opportunity to set legacy framework for making it better for the future boards.
Sorenson suggested the Board meet with the Management Team to hear their responses to the Boardís questions.
Green said the Board has to come well versed with the cuts that are going to be made.
Adjourned at 12:00 p.m.