The ‘Citizens-First’ Budget

The time has come for the Fairfield County Council to manifest a budget which is geared directly to addressing citizens’ needs and wants rather than supporting an inefficient and wasteful government. Fairfield’s urgent imperative to finally produce an enlightened budget is best supported in the form of a calculation which is reflective of our previous weak budgeting efforts.

The calculation is stated thusly: A budget focused on perpetuating and feeding an inefficient government instead of promoting “citizen-first” resource allocations = poorly rated (by both citizens and third parties) service levels + over $1 billion in squandered VC Summer monies + one of the highest property tax rates in the state + one of the state’s highest tax burdens for the poor + county per capita spending which nearly doubles the spending of its 18 S.C. rural county peers + a county debt commitment of about $2,000 for every man, woman and child + infamous boondoggles such as the collapsing football field, and a snake-oil inspired shell corporation +++++( this side of the equation is infinite but you get the idea).

Where has all the money gone? Fairfield’s’ citizens deserve an effective and efficient government which is derived from a “citizens-first” budget perspective instead of a “feed the apparatus first” budget.

Let’s use this year’s budget process to incorporate a government framework which will produce efficiencies and enhance services and infrastructure.

I submit a few example suggestions which will create a leaner and more effective government which will better serve the people.

• Cease all defeatist and downright unproductive attitudes such as ” you have to cut services to reduce spending” or “the bidding process raises costs,” and “we can always issue more debt.” Thinking you cannot run more efficiently only results in more taxes and less services. Rather budget participants should exhibit a “we can do better” attitude from all other budget participants. The citizens certainly deserve that attitude.

• Optimize resource allocations to the people by empowering the government team to find ways to reduce spending on running the government by a modest 5 percent, while improving services through channeling the energy and money savings into serving the people. Include benchmarks and measurements in the budget which would be reviewed for progress and needed adjustments quarterly. Provide the public with the quarterly updates. Budget bonus incentives to associates for achieving total county operations savings in excess of 5 percent of the budget.

• Look for ways to increase revenue without raising taxes. Investing some recreation money into sports complexes which can host tournaments for out of area teams is one example of boosting revenue while providing citizen services.

• Complete a current county government organizational chart. Compare staffing levels with other like counties. Build a less overlapping and more productive organization hierarchy. Balance openings from current overstaffed areas. No layoffs; let normal attrition do the work.

• Explore avenues to replace costly vendors with more efficient in-house work. Eliminate vendor and in-house work overlaps. This would afford the county an opportunity to relocate those associates who presently are in overstaffed departments. Or reduce expenses with more effective vendors, if possible.

• Initiate an immediate hiring freeze (only Council can approve exceptions).

• Empower each department to submit at least 3 cost saving and 3 service improvement ideas during the budget process. Hold associates accountable for following through on the approved processes.

• Facilitate associate achievement and enhance job satisfaction by creating a performance and personal growth culture. In other words, conduct twice annual purposeful employee reviews. Tie the budget goals for improvement into the review process. Employee reviews should also be utilized to provide two-way feedback to enhance employee growth and development. Further, reviews should be leveraged as a management learning experience to understand how to best treat the employees. Clearly directed goal oriented employees are happier and more productive employees.

• Develop a robust and hardliner procurement process. Insist vendors fully honor their time-bound, performance and cost commitments. All contracts should include vendor monetary penalties for deviations from their commitments.