At the latest City Council meeting Oct. 12, a six-month review of departmental activities was presented. I will share here a few of the exciting points identified in the report. It will include suggestions on how you can help us serve better.
The six-month review presentation can be found on the city’s website under the City Manager tab and is titled “City Manager update 10.17.”
One of our biggest challenges for Roswell is providing adequate communication within the organization and throughout the entire city. It is difficult to find a media source that reaches everyone. This requires the city to utilize many different sources, including the newspaper and social media. If you feel there are other ways to disseminate information, please share your ideas with our Public Affairs Department.
To further our efforts to increase communication, the City Council has allowed staff to schedule neighborhood and topical meetings with the public. Staff is pursuing the use of electronic surveys, email blasts and increasing our Facebook presence. The point to all this is to strengthen the city’s effort in serving its citizens by listening to the individuals who are served.
In the next 10 days, the city will be activating a department operations survey. The public is asked to share their opinions on how well each of the departments serve the community. It is my hope that everyone takes the opportunity to share their opinions in a constructive manner so that we can assure our services exceed your expectations.
The city remains fiscally strong. Standard & Poor maintained the city’s great bond rating of “AA” for recent projects, such as the Recreation and Aquatics Center and the convention center expansion. A rating of “AA” shows a very strong ability to meet its financial obligations and commitments. This exceptional rating allows the city to borrow funds at a lower interest rate, which saves our citizens money over the term of the loan.
Starting with a strong overall financial position, the challenge is how to prioritize the day to day expenses. Along with core primary services, including public safety and infrastructure, the city supports many other activities that are designed to improve the lives of our people. This is where budget balancing becomes a priority.
During the next three years, Roswell will be moving toward a priority-based budget system. The eight core principals of the system identified by the Government Finance Officers Association in 2011 are:
1) Prioritize Services. Priority-driven budgeting evaluates the relative importance of individual programs and services rather than entire departments.
2) Do the Important Things Well. Cut Back on the Rest. Priority-driven budgeting identifies the services that offer the highest value and continues to provide funding for them, while reducing service levels, divesting or potentially eliminating lower value services.
3) Question Past Patterns of Spending. An incremental budget process doesn’t seriously question spending decisions made in years past. Priority-driven budgeting puts all the money on the table to encourage more creative conversations about services.
4) Spend Within the Organization’s Means. Priority-driven budgeting starts with the revenue available to the government, rather than last year’s expenditures, as the basis for decision making.
5) Know the True Cost of Doing Business. Focusing on the full costs of programs ensures that funding decisions are based on the true cost of providing a service.
6) Provide Transparency of Community Priorities. When budget decisions are based on a well-defined set of community priorities, the government’s aims are not left open to interpretation.
7) Provide Transparency of Service Impact. In traditional budgets, it is often not entirely clear how funded services make a real difference in the lives of citizens. Under priority-driven budgeting, the focus is on the results the service produces for achieving community priorities.
8) Demand Accountability for Results. Traditional budgets focus on accountability for staying within spending limits. Beyond this, priority-driven budgeting demands accountability for results that were the basis for a service’s budget allocation.
In the review, public safety continues to be a high priority item. Through a coordinated departmental approach, the Roswell Police Department will soon be fully staffed. It may be a year before the results can be realized due to the intense training that the Roswell officers must undergo to become certified, but each day brings us closer to that reality.
When the recruitment efforts are tied to a stable wage-and-benefit plan that can attract and retain exceptional employees, the city will perform at a high-quality level, which our citizens demand and deserve.
There are a number of other important initiatives outlined in the full report. Know that the City Council and staff are working hard to assist everyone who wants to keep Roswell the Jewel of the Southwest.
Joe Neeb is Roswell’s city manager. He may be reached at email@example.com. The views expressed in this column are those of the author.