There is no way to ensure that every decision is a good one. But every decision should be based on the best available data at that time. Gathering good data has been a challenge this year for the Board of Commissioners (BOC) as it deliberated the county’s budget, including the size of its workforce.
Each department has an authorized number of staff positions, a number that has likely increased through the years, especially during periods of notable economic growth. But not all those positions are filled with county employees.
Why? Because when a position is vacated, a department manager may elect not to hire a replacement. Instead, they use the payroll savings from that vacated position to fund other operational expenses in the department.
The BOC has no way of knowing when a position is vacated because it does not receive line-item budgets for each department, only its total dollar figures. The CEO does have access to such line-item budgets, but historically has chosen not to share that with the BOC.
The CEO and department heads have a vested interest in maintaining or increasing existing funding levels in order to easily perform its services. As a result of the county’s historical approach to staffing, the number of paychecks does not equal the number of authorized positions in its workforce. This lack of synchronization makes it difficult for the BOC to properly evaluate budget requests and workforce size.
In an attempt to synchronize the numbers, the BOC passed an ordinance that abolished positions vacated by this year’s early retirement offer as well as positions that have been vacant since Dec. 15, 2009. The ordinance included exceptions for public safety personnel and other positions identified by the administration as critical to county operations. The CEO vetoed the ordinance, but his veto was overridden by the BOC.
The CEO insisted the county organizational act (the “county constitution”) does not give the BOC authority to approve or reject the creation of staff positions. At the same time, the CEO requested permission to refill some positions vacated in early retirement. To summarize his position, on one hand the BOC does not have authority, but on the other hand, it does.
The organizational act states the CEO has authority to supervise county employees and to reorganize departments, but it is silent on the matter of creating positions. In the absence of explicit language, it seems reasonable that the authority for creating positions resides with the BOC because it bears final approval of the county budget.
As reported previously, the retirement offer was quite popular, resulting in the loss of more employees than planned. Those positions deemed essential, particularly public safety, have been, or will be, refilled with the BOC’s blessing.
Power IT Down
For the third year, DeKalb County participated in a national one-day event, “Power IT Down,” to promote energy conservation. At the end of the workday Friday, August 27, the Board of Commissioners and the county CEO asked all county employees to save energy and money by turning off their computers, monitors, and printers.
This event was the joint creation of technology-related companies, HP, Intel, and Citrix (The “IT” in the event’s name is an acronym for information technology.) The three collectively donate money, equivalent to the estimated energy savings from this event, to the Wounded Warrior Project. Participating employees from the public and private sectors signed up at powerITdown.org.
I’ve been a cheerleader for this event from the beginning and this initiative is picking up momentum. Let’s make it a “Power IT Down” day every day, everywhere in DeKalb!