Community Meeting on the County Budget
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This report summarizes the outcomes from the Community Meeting on the County Budget held by Supervisor Jane Parker on Sunday March 8th from 3-5 pm. County residents may use this report to reference additional resources that will assist them becoming more involved in the budget process. Supervisor Parker will take into consideration the feedback from County residents who attended this meeting in future decision-making. This report will be posted online at www.janeparker.org.
On Sunday, March 8th, from 3-5pm, Supervisor Jane Parker welcomed nearly 50 people to a Community Meeting on the County Budget at the Marina Library meeting room. The meeting began with every participant introducing themselves and sharing their top issues of interest. The group was fairly diverse in both demographics and interests, yet united in appreciation of the opportunity to share their ideas and concerns for Monterey County.
Presentation on the County Budget
Supervisor Parker spent about 40 minutes reviewing the fundamentals of the County Budget with a focus on the general fund, the current and projected deficit, and proposals being considered to address the increasing gap between revenues and expenses. A powerpoint presentation included slides from the Three-Year Forecast presentation made to the Board of Supervisors on March 3rd and the Special Budget Workshop presentations on March 4th.
The Monterey County Budget and Analysis Division has the Three-Year Forecast posted on the internet at: http://www.co.monterey.ca.us/admin/badivision/.
Small Group Discussions
Following the informational presentation, seven groups of 5-10 people were formed with each group selecting a facilitator and a notetaker to document their discussion. The groups spent about 40 minutes discussing four specific questions:
• What is your vision/priorities for County Government?
• What are the principles that should be used in making budget decisions?
• What ideas/examples do you have for improving the effectiveness and efficiency of County Government?
• What ideas/examples do you have for decreasing expenses in County Government?
The groups self organized and jumped right into the questions. Observation of the groups revealed a shared focus on the task at hand and respectful discussion among participants. Copious notes appeared to document all perspectives.
Small Group Report Back
As anticipated, the most interesting and valuable part of the community discussion was the report back from each small group. A central theme of accountability quickly emerged and was incorporated to some extent by each of the small groups. Multiple groups suggested that all 26 County departments should develop performance measures that are measurable, enforceable, and publicly reported. It was noted that the performance measures should be developed by, or with input from, experienced professionals and the community. One participant articulated that the County should embrace a culture of excellence in customer service, citing the question often heard in private industry “Have I provided you with excellent service today?”
It is also important to note that the concept of accountability was not introduced during the earlier presentation on the County budget, and that each of the seven groups independently identified this as a top priority. It is also noteworthy since it is in alignment with the draft budget principles presented at the March 4th BOS Special Budget meeting.
Public Safety was another top priority, with prevention specifically due to its cost effectiveness. Public Health also emerged as a top priority. Individual feedback indicated that Natividad Medical Center is considered an important and critical part of the health care delivery system in Monterey County.
Other top concerns included the high rate of unemployment in Monterey County and the need for social services to support unemployed residents; the consideration of service levels to county residents in any reduction scenarios; the need to take a long term view of the budget and make structural changes that will preserve critical and mandated services; the belief that higher paid employees should take larger cuts to minimize impact on lower paid employees.
Almost every group suggested energy savings strategies as a way to reduce county expense. Multiple groups recommended that the County, especially RMA, review fee structures, both as they compare to private industry as well as to ensure that they recover actual costs. Other structural cost savings ideas included the use of volunteers; fleet policy; the use of appropriate technology; and the possibility of eliminating or combining departments to eliminate duplication. Again, it is important to note that these priorities were not specifically introduced by Supervisor Parker during the earlier presentation; however multiple groups independently reached the same conclusions.
The need to communicate better with other government agencies, specifically cities, was discussed. Some participants suggested that the County should contract with cities to provide coordinated services. One participant suggested that “the County could provide plan check services for all other local jurisdictions.”
Supervisor Jane Parker reiterated the prevalent theme of the desire for accountability in county government and solicited ongoing participation from attendees who would be willing to invest additional time on this issue. Specifically, as the issue of accountability relates to the draft County Budget principles, participants were encouraged to review the section of the Draft Principles that discusses accountability and share any additional suggestions in the form of a letter to the Board of Supervisors or during public comment when this document is brought before the Board of Supervisors for approval. It is anticipated that additional opportunities for ongoing community involvement regarding the implementation of adopted principles are expected over the next year.
The feedback provided at this Community Meeting will serve to inform decisions and recommendations to be made by Supervisor Parker. Supervisor Parker and her staff will watch for opportunities to present and incorporate the ideas expressed at this meeting in her work on the various commissions, committees, boards to which she is assigned, as well as with her fellow Supervisors.
This report will be distributed to other County Supervisors, county department heads, media, and posted on www.janeparker.org.
This is the first of quarterly community meetings that Supervisor Parker will hold on topics of interest to County residents. The next community meeting is scheduled for : June 21, 2009.
The Board of Supervisors meet weekly on Tuesdays at the Government Center Board Chambers at 168 West Alisal Street,, Salinas CA 93901. The agenda for these meetings is posted online the Thursday prior at http://monterey.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=5. On Sunday’s prior to each Board of Supervisors meeting, Supervisor Parker hosts an open Agenda Review meeting from 5-6pm at Mountain Mike’s Pizza on Reservation Road in Marina.
In conclusion, Supervisor Parker expressed her appreciation to every participant for spending a part of their Sunday afternoon working on behalf of the County.
In addition to the group discussion, notes, and verbal report back, each participant was also provided with a feedback questionnaire so that they could share any ideas that did not emerge in the group discussion. About half of the participants returned the supplemental questionnaire with additional ideas.
Selected Participant Comments
“Vision: County Government should be engaged, adaptable, flexible, inclusive, transparent, responsive, smart, effective, efficient, equitable, sustainable, accountable to the community, and should promote community involvement.”
“Emphasis on long term business decisions – not a stop gap measure for this year only, but a plan for the next 3-5 years”
“Cost benefit analysis – Are we getting our money’s worth?”
“Each worksite should have an official form for suggestions to improve efficiency”
“Quality of service vs cost to the county”
“We need a set of measurable goals for the County that are written and tracked. Use experts to develop the goals (like how schools measure and report student achievement).
“Post the performance of each department on the website. Post a phone number for people to give comments”
“Measurable goals applied to every decision. We want transparency and oversight.”
“Priorities: Ensure the health, safety, and well being of all stakeholders in an inclusive way. Create mechanisms to facilitate the easy exchange of information and concerns.”
“It is cheaper to feed people than to arrest and incarcerate them!”
“Keep the public informed about changes that will be made - as a result of the budget cuts or for any other reason. No surprises!”
“Develop ecology policy – to implement energy saving ideas, like double sided copies.”
“Transparency in decisions – why are the decisions made and who stands to benefit from the decisions.”
“A matrix that shows the interaction of services and department.”
“Include more public input from stakeholders in the decision making process.”
“All levels must feel the pain of cuts”
“Ideas: Change the culture of county staff from the top down; take a different perspective. Create a structure for risk-free employee feedback. Reward ideas that lead to sustainable savings. Find benchmarks and best practices for levels of service and find comparisons of costs per outcome.”
Monterey County Supervisors Contact Information: http://www.co.monterey.ca.us/supervisors.htm
Monterey County Budget and Analysis Division: http://www.co.monterey.ca.us/admin/badivision/
Monterey County Board of Supervisors Agendas: http://monterey.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=5.
2008-2009 Monterey County Budget: http://www.co.monterey.ca.us/admin/badivision/FY_2008-09_Budget.htm
Three Year Forecast: Presented at March 3rd Board of Supervisors Meeting
Draft County Financial Policies: Presented at March 4th Board of Supervisors Meeting
“A budget is more than simply numbers on a page. It is a measure of how well we are living up to our obligations to ourselves and one another. It is a test for our commitment to making America what it was always meant to be -- a place where all things are possible for all people. ” - President Barack Obama