Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Letter to the Editor: Councilmember Salafia: City Dept. Mergers Don't Save Resources

Below is a essay by Councilmember Linda Salafia. All opinions expressed are that of the author and not necessarily that of the Insider staff. 

The City Reorg will be voted on at a special council meeting open to the public at 6 pm Thursday May 2, 2013 in the Council Chambers.

Salafia previously commented on this re-org in an earlier letter to editor:
Read full article here.
 
The objective of the task force appears to contain a predetermined remedy for what were yet-to-be discovered problems. Salafia points out that many of the positions will still have to be filled and therefore the cost savings is a false assumption. Kleckowski cited departments becoming dysfunctional as a concern. In a previously published letter from the actuaries hired by the City to City Finance Director Carl Erlacher, the actuaries expressed concerns that the pension fund be in trouble as early as 2014. Apparently, Mayor Drew knows better than the professionals.
Editors Note: Background Information and financial breakdowns:
The package is available to read here: https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B1OYjxtLEgUwUm9EZ1gzYUdsODQ
The smoking gun letter from the actuary is here:   https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B1OYjxtLEgUwUm9EZ1gzYUdsODQ
 Previously published posts on this subject can be read here:
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Councilmember Salafia's Letter to the Editor:
I want to respond to John Milardo's newsletter however I don't think the space for comments will allow me room to say what I want.
The vote on the merger of the Personnel Department into the Legal Department is scheduled for May 2, and most assuredly will pass.  However, I plan on voting no to that and to any other resolution presented as a result of the merger.  There are several reasons why I don't agree with this particular merger and don't think that it will either streamline, improve the efficiency of government or save money.

First, I don't agree with the report issued by the Task Force formed by the Mayor to improve efficiency in government shortly after he took office.  I believe that the Mayor gave them the charge to reduce the number of employees that report directly to him; not that the committee did an unbiased assessment of the workings of the city government.  The report stated that 20 employees reported directly to the Mayor, I'm having trouble coming up with those 20.  Also, I understand the concept of having outside eyes look at the procedures; however, they need to have a basic understanding of the current procedures before you make changes.  I had to point out to them that even though only one employee in a truck driver position was retiring that in reality they were losing up to 7 drivers who drive snow plows during storms.

Secondly, I don't agree with the numbers presented on how this merger will save money for the city.  As part of the package given to the Council outlining the savings, as John says, the second Deputy City Attorney position is included in the current funding column and also in the proposed column so that there is no effect on the bottom line.  While this is technically true, since the position of second Deputy Attorney is in the budget now, it was done so on the expectation of the merger happening.  It was not in the budget prior to this year and therefore should be included as a new expense.

Thirdly,  I truly believe that the Personnel Department has different duties and functions that although could often use the advise of attorneys, they should remain separate and distinct.  The volume of work needed to handle the hiring process of the city by itself should illustrate the need for a separation of duties.  Now you will be filtering the public and employees through the City's Legal Office.  The Personnel Department was a department of 4 employees and that had been reduced to 3; this merger is proposing 2 for this function.  I find it difficult to believe that 2 people are going to be able to handle the required duties without additional help considering what's on the horizon such as needing to hire a new Fire Chief, and the review and filling of the other positions that are open as a result of the retirement incentive given.  (That's another whole article about why I didn't agree with that either - as far as, I can see, there's been no actual savings with that.)  Paralegal has come up in discussions.

Also, included in this merger may be a change in the council committees which is going to be another problem and will require another whole discussion and I believe that should happen before any merger or change takes place.
Therefore, based on those reasons and more, I will not be voting in favor of this merger.  
 
Sincerely,
Linda Salafia
Councilperson, R

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