I recently served on a panel with three other government officials at the 2010 Allen County Fiscal Summit. We discussed “Best Practices and Money Saving Tips” that each of us have implemented to deal with the continued loss of tax money local governmental units have been experiencing.
The Summit was hosted by the Allen County Auditor’s Office to bring local governmental officials together to learn about and discuss current issues in local government financing. The keynote speaker was Dr. Larry DeBoer, a professor at Purdue University and a renowned expert on State and local government public policy.
I was not surprised by Dr. DeBoer’s message that local governmental units will have even less money with which to operate next year than this year. Dr. DeBoer said the property tax caps, combined with the loss of income tax revenue because of the recession, are the cause of less tax dollars for local government.
I recognized early in my term as Wayne Township Trustee that our office would be facing a budget crisis. Less tax revenue, plus a recession in which more citizens would need Wayne Township Assistance, created a “perfect storm” for us.
During my presentation to the Summit, I told the attendees that my first step was to acknowledge a need to take action. I had to recognize that Wayne Township was challenged and would continue to be challenged “to do more with less.” So, I began to gather facts and do a self-evaluation of our operation.
Of course, my number one priority was to create a budget that could be sustained by the actual dollars available—A BALANCED BUDGET. I scrutinized the data I had gathered and developed a strategic plan. This plan called for a balancing act of providing the best possible service to clients versus the amount of tax money we would be receiving.
The strategic plan we developed and executed included numerous new policies and procedures. I tried to minimize the impact on both clients and staff. But, change is always difficult, especially when it involves a budget reduction.
I reviewed our programs and had to cut one program that, while a good program, was costing a great deal of money to serve only a limited number of clients. We revisited our personnel policies and changed them to prevent large payouts when an employee left employment. We reduced our staff by not replacing employees who resigned, and we cut staff hours. I was very firm that I did not want to lay off any employees. Cutting hours allowed us to keep everyone employed and working just a few less hours.
We also limited the amount of Township Assistance each client was receiving. That way we could help more clients, but each would receive a smaller amount of assistance. I used the analogy at the Summit that when money is short you have to spread the peanut butter a little thinner on each sandwich. We also have focused more on our advocacy role by helping clients enroll in other programs for which they are eligible and by providing clients with employment training classes and helping them find jobs.
All of our efforts have resulted not only in a balanced budget, but in decreasing our budget by 16 percent this year, one of the biggest decreases of all Allen County units of government. I am very proud of the progress we have made at Wayne Township in meeting the needs of clients with less money.
Richard A. Stevenson, Sr.
Wayne Township Trustee
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