Editorial: Efficiency Study Should Come Before Discussing Cuts

By / Editorials / Wednesday, 11 July 2018 02:02

Managing Editor

When the Carolina Beach Town Council met last month to approve the fiscal year 2018-2019 budget, there was some discussion about hiring a third party firm to conduct an efficiency study of the Town with an eye on increased efficiency and cutting costs.

During a June 20th, event at the America Legion, Mayor Joe Benson and Councilman Steve Shuttleworth touched on this topic when meeting with local residents to answer questions. Sort of a meet and greet where citizens could ask questions of two elected officials and get some insight into their local government. (See report on page 1-A titled, "Employee Morale Low Following Word Of Potential Reduction Of Personnel, Benefits")

During the event there was discussion of the recent budget process and the need to raise fees to reduce a budget gap for the 2018-2019 fiscal year of over two million dollars. The Council requested additional budget reductions and increased fees to reduce that gap to around $368,000 dollars to be covered by utilizing reserve funds. That avoided a property tax increase. But the Council did discuss the cost of personnel and benefits and how to find efficiencies in future budget years.

Mayor Joe Benson explained, "46 or 47% of the budget goes to personnel and benefits. That's the escalating cost that if you look across the country in the macro, communities and states are dealing with it. It's unsutainable. So very soon there's going to be a meeting with the Town Manager to come up with a plan, just so you know, to reduce personnel and benefits by somewhere in the neighborhood of 10%. We haven't come to a resolution on that. You are just hearing it from me because that has to happen."

Shuttleworth said, "We asked management to come back, because when I look at the budget and I see that we have almost 50% going towards personnel, my question was can you show me some other municipalities per capita, the same size communities that have that or can you show me a percentage. Go to other communities. I don't care if they are 200,000 people, 50,000 people or two million people, do they have the same percentage. 50% of their budget being employees because that is what becomes burdensome and we haven't had that response come back from the manager. We are waiting to hear that. We believe that we need to reduce staff."

He added that many times he hears from developers and new business owners about how hard it is to get a permit or open a new business and that staff devotes a lot of time to handling issues like 360 investigations into junk vehicles, high grass and health and safety inspections of buildings.

The Town has conducted pay studies over the years and even an organizational and efficiency study in 2003, conducted by a third party. That led to changes in various departments.

Previous administrations have discussed cutting personnel and benefits over the years, but in the last 17 years I can't remember a time where employees were laid off or terminated. Instead, Council's decided in some limited cases to eliminate positions through attrition, meaning when a position became vacant it wasn't filled.
It's understandable that employees are upset about comments regarding potential personnel and benefit reductions.

It's unlikely that any decisions to do that, or not, would be made before completion of an efficiency study and next year's budget process. It's also unlikely that Council would take such a drastic action as cutting 10% of personnel and benefits.

At this point it seems more like a negative reaction to the most recent budget process rather than a realistic option. Communication is key. Council should start with communicating with employees Assure them there will not be a rash of pink slips handed out. They can help find efficiencies. Just ask them.


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