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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

We Couldn't Afford Performance Measures? This is not responsible budgeting.

Last night at the Council's first budget session, I asked the City Manager why there are no performance measures in his or the Mayor's budget document so that taxpayers can determine whether or not they are getting their money's worth and whether or not management can determine if a department and its programs are working effectively. I have asked each budget year for these measures. We had them 5 years ago and they disappeared.

The answer I received from the City Manager and which the public heard was astounding.

"We haven't been able to afford staff and time to do them."

What??!!! Performance measures are the essence of transparency and effective government. They tell us:

  • How well we are doing?
  • Are our customers satisfied?
  • Are we meeting our goals and objectives?
  • If and where improvements are necessary
Every business, every level of government needs to have performance measures. You can't have a strategy without measurement. As the saying goes: "what gets measured, gets done."

How do our city employees know if they are doing a good job? How do we know?

Our measures need to include:
  • What and how much do we do?
  • How well do we do it?
  • Is anyone better off for doing it?
Let's take a look at what other cities in California do:
San Jose: The Budget Office also compiles performance measure information for the City. This information is incorporated into the annual budget process and is used by department staff throughout the year to measure progress in meeting performance goals.
San Diego: Performance Indicators are statistical indicators of City departments’ operating performance. They provide meaningful current and historic performance information for the City’s residents and to the Mayor and City Council to use in developing informed budgetary and policy decisions. (In fact, click here to read the performance measures used in San Diego.
There is no excuse for a Mayor or City Manager budget not to include performance measures nor for City Council members to state this budget is "responsible."

In most cities, Department work plans are required to support the cities' strategic planning priorities and are the basis for budgeting, requests for enhancements and reduction alignments. In most cities, the City Manager has a preliminary meeting with each department to review the department's work plan and to ensure that they support the strategic priorities. 

In San Diego, the Mayor has included performance measures in his budget presented to the City Council after the City Council insisted that such measures be included in the budget. The City Council then passed “Ten Fundamental Principles for an Effective, Cooperative and Transparent Mayor-Council Form of Government” (“Principles”) to ensure that future Mayors are committed to a governance structure guided by 

the overriding principles of effectiveness, cooperation and transparency and that also work 
within the parameters of the City’s Charter." A key principle is: "publicly report performance results for core city services."

The Long Beach City Council approved retaining a consultant -- Management Partners -- to determine efficiencies -- let's have them help city management develop performance measures so taxpayers can determine what they are paying for. To do less, is not responsible. 

Save Station 18

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