Poughkeepsie… Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus announced today his 2011 County Budget proposal will include a sizeable organizational restructuring and bold county government reform, producing the most substantial realignment and downsizing since the current county structure was created by county charter in 1968 – more than 42 years ago.
The County Executive said, “The national recession continues to linger with little expectation of growth over the next few years, limiting the normal recurring revenue growth governments rely on to pay for programs and services for residents. Bold county government reform of the management and service delivery structure is the only way for us to meet the challenges of 2011, 2012 and beyond.”
“The state of the economy demands evolution to a different and more modern, efficient business model for government,” Steinhaus stated.
“Reform will be far-reaching. Our bold restructuring plan will consolidate and merge departments, activities, functions and services to increase our efficiency and effectiveness with a tighter and leaner county organization for 2011 and the new decade to come,” said County Executive Steinhaus. “The impact will be felt across county government, including the senior management team in my Executive Office.”
“Our working plan will start right here in the Executive Office with the elimination of one of my three senior professional staff positions. Additionally, up to six department head positions throughout county government will be eliminated as we work to consolidate various departments,” said Steinhaus.
Steinhaus emphasized, “Right now, Dutchess County government has fewer county employees than 24 years ago in 1987. In 2011, county government will have fewer managers and senior staff requiring all of us to be even more creative and innovative to get the job done with fewer resources.”
“Beginning with a multi-million dollar budget gap, we’ve known we had to continue to rethink how county government does business. We are redesigning how we operate in order to deliver services within the fiscal constraints of our overstressed property taxpayers. The status quo just isn’t an option.”
Last week, County Executive Steinhaus announced the County is struggling to close a $40 million budget gap for 2011. Initial revenue estimates totaled $375 million and left the County $40 million short to deliver the county programs and services as they exist today. That budget gap must be closed by November 1st, when County Executive Steinhaus will present a balanced budget of expenses and revenues to the County Legislature. “Cutting spending and payroll is essential to closing the budget gap while positioning Dutchess County government for sustainability in future years,” said County Executive Steinhaus.
Under the leadership of County Executive Steinhaus, Dutchess County government has a record of controlling costs and operating lean and efficiently. Successful cost control and streamlined operations are clearly evident.
Just a few recent examples include:
- New agreement for non-emergency Medicaid Transportation that has resulted in $1.25 million in savings for property taxpayers.
- More than $2.3 million in savings that are anticipated from the recently authorized new Internet Protocol (IP) phone system.
Dutchess County’s cost control and innovative practices set it apart from other governments. According to the Business Council’s Public Policy Institute and the Empire Center for New York State Policy:
- Dutchess County government has been ranked among the lowest of all 57 New York counties for spending and taxes per resident.
- In the past, Dutchess has had the best ranking of all the medium and large sized counties of the Mid Hudson region in several key categories, with the lowest spending for total expenditures per capita, lowest taxes per capita and lowest debt per capita.
“When you are already operating a lean government organization as we do in Dutchess, the only real way to cut costs is to restructure, consolidate, and reduce payroll,” said Steinhaus. “Within the framework of our current service provision, there are few areas to cut away or ‘incidentals’ we can do without, yet still provide the same level of services for residents. We continue to reevaluate the very basics of what county government is and figure out ways we can reduce those basic costs.”
The work of the Health and Human Services (H&HS) Cabinet has provided strong groundwork and has shown a natural evolution for some consolidation opportunity. Since the cabinet was created in 2005, the Commissioners and Directors of the Departments of Health, Mental Hygiene, Social Services, Office for Aging, Probation and Community Corrections, Veterans Services, and Youth Bureau have come together to address issues affecting multiple departments and develop strategies to maximize the county’s resources. “Many of these departments have been working together through the H&HS Cabinet to better meet the needs of our residents and now we believe we can take the next steps of merging some of the Cabinet departments together to save even more money for property taxpayers,” said County Executive Steinhaus.
With some of the departments within the H&HS Cabinet slated for consolidation, the current structure of the H&HS cabinet will be transformed, and the position of “Director of H&HS cabinet” will be eliminated.
The Budget Director and senior staff have been meeting with various department heads to explore the possibilities of consolidation. Questions asked and being explored include:
- Are any of their functions similar to the mission in other departments?
- If the department could be redesigned from the beginning, how could it better serve today’s customers using County services?
- Could services be sustained, improved or expenses reduced by combining with another department?
- What are the opportunities for shared staffing and payroll reductions?
Numerous issues must be addressed and some of the proposed consolidations will be phased in over a multi-year period.
Other departments are being evaluated for opportunity to merge or consolidate functions as well; particularly in areas where technological innovation will now allow specific functions to be reallocated. Specific recommended departmental and program consolidations and mergers will be laid out as part of the Executive Tentative Budget proposal.
“I certainly understand people’s natural resistance to change. These are difficult choices; but these are very difficult economic times for families and businesses. By necessity, the challenge of overcoming a daunting $40 million budget gap for 2011 has presented us with a unique opportunity to reevaluate how we operate as county government,” concluded County Executive Steinhaus. “The natural resistance to change will cause some to choose only criticism; some will cry loudly to maintain the status quo. But as I said, the status quo isn’t an option. As elected leaders, it is our job and responsibility to listen through the noise and make the difficult decisions that will better serve our residents in a fiscally responsible and sustainable way for the long term.”