Question #4: What ideas do you want to pursue, to improve the efficiency of our town government?
Tuesday, October 17th, 2017 @ 10:15AM
Candidate for First Selectman
There are many different areas where efficiencies are necessary. As far as the financial aspect goes, we need to improve efficiencies in our operating budget. Two simple examples: The CFO of the Town and the CFO of the schools could sit down on a monthly basis to look for savings together. As well, we need to streamline the mid-cycle budget process. A more challenging, but highly effective approach, would be to introduce zero-based budgeting wherever possible. If we talk about energy efficiency, we need to make the move to renewable energy. The Town of Fairfield is currently saving more than $2,400,000 in energy costs per year with minimum installation costs. It is wonderful to be ‘green’, but renewable energy makes sense for budgetary reasons. In terms of the efficiency of our town government as a whole, we must improve communications on all levels. Too often, time and energy can be lost. I propose that we have a means for weekly communication, either written or in person, between the entire group. Department managers and the town bodies should be brought up to speed on all relevant activities. As we have witnessed with our fields project, communication can be key to solving a world of problems.
Efficiency is a is an organic process and our Town government is constantly evolving. We are lucky to have so many wonderful people working for the town, both as employees and as volunteers. All are working to help the Town of New Canaan operate as effectively as possible.
Candidate for Town Treasurer
It is perhaps presumptuous of someone who has never been involved in the town’s government to suggest areas where efficiency might be improved. What I can do if elected, however, is draw on my business experience in managing costs to suggest ideas. We all know that money flows from Hartford are going to diminish – whether for teacher’s pensions, sidewalks, buying open space (like the $500,000 grant for the Silvermine-Fowler preserve we received this year) or anything else. Expenditures are going to have to be contained to avoid dramatic tax increases.
I am currently on the board of a company with a budget of roughly the same size of this town. We are constantly looking at ways to reduce costs without a negative impact on the business, and are having success. One way, as Kit has suggested, is for departments to start to prepare a budget every year with a clean slate, rather than starting with what you actually spent last year and going from there. Department heads should be challenged by town leaders to find savings and eliminate waste; here is a challenge I have seen in business from the CEO: “How can you save 5% this year without affecting services?”
As we have seen recently with the budget overrun on the sports fields project, particular care needs to be paid to the budgeting for one-off capital projects. Budgeting for these is much more difficult than preparing a budget for a service that is ongoing year to year. In most cases, one is preparing a budget for something one has not done before. The right expertise, sometimes including outside consultants, is necessary for budgeting capital projects: short cuts can be costly.
All of us want to see services in New Canaan, including our great schools, stay as they are, or get even better. Our challenge is to find how to do more with less. I assure you we can.
Liz Gores Donovan?
Candidate for Town Council
Can we interpret the recent $800K overrun on the Fields project as an inefficiency? Let’s say we can. This debacle is a classic project mismanagement problem. There is currently no roadmap for local organizations and their donors – not to mention our own officials – to follow when conducting a joint public/private operation. As these combined efforts are becoming more common, we cannot continue to wag our finger and say these kinds of mistakes mustn’t happen again. The town, as the steward of its taxpayers’ monies, must take the lead here and insist on an initiative to provide a process so that both parties understand their responsibilities and how and when they must communicate project progress to all stakeholders. Furthermore, there must be some kind of monitoring and enforcement, so that the process is followed, risks are avoided or minimized, and efforts to circumvent the process are thwarted or penalized in some way. A clear, sensible path forward, spelling out expectations and operating on the assumption that all involved have the best interests of the community at heart, should be welcomed by all.
Candidate for Town Council
Merging BoE and Town health benefit packages in one larger pool is a possible major cost saving with a larger pool to spread risk and gain efficiencies. Health insurance is difficult and will take time. Efficiencies in merging Town and BoE purchase of common bulk materials, equipment and services should be pushed forward. This would go a long way to offset BoE lost revenues from disappearing state grants.
We can achieve productivity gains by incorporating new equipment and software tools where we can make a good business case to do it. As an example we could all see the gains we could achieve when we moved the Town Finance Department software to the same Munis software package used by the NCPS Finance group. We agreed that the Dude Solutions (formerly Facility Dude) software package to help manage our Town buildings’ on going maintenance was a good purchase. On the equipment side, we agreed that the purchase of a truck with the flexibility to change the bodies to meet a wide variety of uses was better than just buying another dump truck. All these were recommended by the town personnel in the associated departments.
These are just a few examples to keep this brief. We have smart town employees. They know exactly how to do the job better. They need to be listened to closely and we need to support their good ideas.