01/24/2011 & 01/27/2011 Town Council Study Session & Meeting


Council meetings this week emphasized efforts to streamline processes, remove unnecessary steps, improve turnaround times, compress the work week, and explore ways to lower the Town’s utility costs. This should result in lowering expenses to match the reduced revenue during this continued recession, wouldn’t you think? I am glad for every positive step the Council and the Town take together to accomplish that goal.

What’s that? According to Jeff Niland, who wrote an article about organizational efficiency tools for Gilbert Watch titled "To the Gilbert Town Council: The Money is There!", “It was developed in 1986 by Motorola USA. It borrowed heavily from TPM which originated in the 1960’s in Japan.” You may recall that Mr. Niland was on the Steering Committee of the Citizens Budget Committee that met and made recommendations in late 2009. In the spirit of civic duty, he offered to provide 1 year of free service to the Town to help them with their organization efficiencies. The majority of the Council ignored his offer. That included: Linda Abbott, Dave Crozier, Les Presmyk and John Sentz.

Tonight, Greg Tilque, Development Services Director, gave a presentation on the results of a recent Lean 6 Sigma event that involved employees from various Town departments. He reported that the goals were to 1) reduce turn-around time by 30%, 2) improve efficiency of staff, 3) improve quality of submittals, 4) improve customer satisfaction, and 5) identify opportunities to use and apply technology better.

He said that in one process 144 steps were reduced to 80. Streamlining reduces the possibility of errors. These increased efficiencies will reduce turnaround time for permits by at last 4 days. It should be a money-saving improvement.

GW Note: It’s a good start in bringing the Town of Gilbert into the 21st century. Hopefully, this trend continues.

GW Note: For years, the Town Council has awarded taxpayer dollars to outside agencies (charities). This is called “being a hero with other people’s money.” The Citizens Budget Committee’s recommendation for FY beginning 7/1/2010 was to reduce funding to these agencies by 25% for a period of 3 years with no agency receiving more than 35% of the total budget. Thus, the annual funding would be reduced by $108,660, going from $434,640 to $325,980.

The idea was to gradually phase out funds, thus allowing the organizations to find other revenue sources. Some members of the CBC (including me) felt it was not proper for any government entity to use taxpayer funds to support charitable causes.

Tonight, Community Services Director Jim Norman spoke for about 5 minutes before I knew that he was talking about funding for charities. After nearly 2 years of being around government-speak, you’d think my Universal Translator would have picked up on the code words a little faster. A normal adult citizen sitting in on a Council meeting quickly feels like a dog who doesn’t understand a word its owners say, other than the dog’s name of course.

The bottom line is a committee will be formed, through an excruciating process. This committee will review applications from the charities and identify funding priorities. And then, “the Council will decide on the amount allocated from the General Fund.”

That’s odd. I thought the Council already made that decision over a year ago. Didn’t they adopt the recommendation of the Citizens Budget Committee of $325,980? Maybe I missed something. Or maybe the purpose of the Community Services Citizens Budget Committee was to give us practice banging our heads together.

This is the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, for the fiscal year ending 6/30/2010. This report represents the final actual numbers for the fiscal year, with comparisons to prior years. It also includes detailed information about Gilbert’s demographics and overall economy, all sources of Town revenues and expenses, assets and liabilities, and overall debt. It is 150 pages of readable text, charts, and graphs. As of this writing, it has not been posted on the Town’s website.

Hopefully by Monday, 2/7/20ll, you will be able to find it here: http://www.gilbertaz.gov/budget/#three

I saw the report, and there is an item of interest. From 7/1/2008 – 6/30/2009, the Town INCREASED its outstanding debt by $229,140,000. From 7/1/2009 – 6/30/2010, the Town REDUCED its outstanding debt by $41,340,000.

I wonder what happened causing debt to skyrocket in FY2009? For one thing, Councilmembers Linda Abbott, Dave Crozier, and Les Presmyk were approving every major land purchase, with and without an appraisal, during that time. What happened causing debt to shrink in FY2010? Conservatives Mayor Lewis and Councilmember Daniels took office. Also, from Sept.-Nov 2009, the Citizens Budget Committees met for several weeks and made expense reduction recommendations, throwing cold water on the passion for spending. By the way, there are still millions of dollars in recommendations that the majority Council brushed aside.

Budget Administrator Dawn Irvine provided Council with budget process dates and calendars. There was a change in the previous timeline in that the Citizen “Think Tank” Forum for Citizen Input will be held at two different times, allowing for more people to participate. Those dates are March 2 and March 9. She advised that those chosen should be representative of the citizens of Gilbert. Councilmembers will identify 5 people each and 2 alternates. Staff’s recommendation is that final adoption of the FY2011-2012 budget will take place on June 9, 2011.

This discussion has been ongoing for several weeks, and various departments have been examining the feasibility of going to a 10-hour day, 4-day work week. Other communities that have tried it have had positive results, not just from the savings in utility costs, but also worker productivity and morale. Not all departments will be affected, such as the Senior Center and public safety departments.