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Tuesday, October 02, 2012

July 2012: City Administrator gives A short history of ReOrganizations

(Ed.note: This is a recent article from July 2012 of the Evansville City Administrator, Dan Wietecha.) The city government as an organization needs to be both effective and efficient. We need  to be effective – from the citizen’s point of view – in providing quality service. We need  to be efficient in the process – whether it means eliminating unnecessary paperwork, time  and delay, costs, etc. We need to maximize the value of our performance. 2007 Re­Organization When then City Clerk/Treasurer Jim Bielke resigned five years ago, we used the vacancy  as an opportunity to re­organize the city’s financial offices. The Clerk and Treasurer positions each have certain legally required duties. In general, the Clerk has custody of and responsibility for city papers including ordinances, resolutions, contracts, and meeting minutes. In general, the Treasurer has responsibility  for the city’s general fund including property taxes, collection of fees, and accounting for receipts and disbursements. Since 1952, the City of Evansville had treated the two  offices as combined and had maintained the appointment of an individual to both offices. We also had a Finance Director. This position evolved out of the long­time Financial  Director position that oversaw the accounts and finances of the Water & Light  Department. In January 2004, this position was recast with responsibility for accounting  of both the Water & Light Department and the City’s general fund. The city offices had a split “finance department” with some responsibilities vesting with  the Clerk/Treasurer and other responsibilities vesting with the Finance Director. I understand how we got a split department. But it did lend itself to duplication of effort. And it resulted in an artificial division between the office employees – depending on  which supervisor they reported to, they were either Water & Light or City. In 2007 we used the Clerk/Treasurer vacancy as an opportunity to re­organize finance department responsibilities. We stripped the Treasurer duties separate from the Clerk and  assigned those duties as part of the Finance Director’s role. All staff, including the Clerk, then reported to the Finance Director. This eliminated the split finance department, aligning all the fiscal duties in one financial department. It also resulted in better office  and accounting efficiencies and improved customer service. 2011­2012 Lean Operations In 2011 a number of efficiency improvements were approved. Some were implemented  then; others will be implemented this year. The most significant was the upgrading of our accounting software. Because this will be  needed for a smart metering system in the future, WPPI Energy has offering a grant to  cover the utility billing portion of the upgrade, approximately $28,000. They also offered  a 0% loan to finance the non­billing portion of the software, approximately $32,000. With reduced annual maintenance fees, the city will actually come out with a net savings. Although jobs in the finance department had been consolidated a few years ago, we  maintained separate accounting systems. Now the accounting upgrade provides a timelyopportunity to consolidate the accounting databases: streamlining office procedures and  further eliminating duplicative efforts. The consolidation was completed early this year;  however, various delays with the software upgrade itself have taken much longer. Another related improvement was contracting with a third­party vendor to offer on­line  and phone system for paying utility bills; this has been in place since fall 2011. This has been an excellent example of better service through ease and convenience for the  customer. It also reduces staff time for handling and processing utility bills. And when the accounting software upgrade is completed later this summer, we will begin  having the utility bills printed and mailed from another third­party vendor. Although the  direct cost savings for this are pretty minimal, it will free up significant staff time. We need to be both effective and efficient. We need to be effective – from the citizen’s point of view – in providing quality service.  We need to be efficient in the process –  whether it means eliminating unnecessary paperwork, time and delay, costs, etc. We  need to maximize the value of our performance. 2012 Executive Assistant This spring with the resignation of then Human Resources Administrator Jodi Sam, we again used a vacancy as an opportunity to re­organize job responsibilities within the  finance department. The City Clerk has now taken on a greater role in human resources management. The  Human Resources Administrator position was updated to become an Executive Assistant  to help the Finance Director with accounting and bookkeeping, the City Administrator with employment contracts and collective bargaining, and the City Clerk with payroll and  recordkeeping. Although on a much smaller scale than the 2007 re­organization, when coupled with the  recent and ongoing lean operations, it will further focus the department’s operations. Strategic Thinking Over the past year, we have had a series of Committee of the Whole meetings (with  another scheduled for September 15) to deliberately attend to building capacity for lean  operations among city officials and staff. This means a commitment to improvement: a  vision for top­notch service, practical training, a focus on results, and nurturing an  organizational culture which looks past the status quo. As the city’s governing body, the Common Council should examine existing routines and  explore innovative strategies (and/or encourage staff to). The way we performed in the  past may have been the best approach then, but it might be less productive for the future. And some short­term action should be seen as a means to a greater end, not as the end in  and of itself. It means getting beyond a catch phrase like “top­notch service” and  defining it in terms of specific priorities for safety, quality of life, and other public  benefits.

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