Guest column | John Gallagher

Pasco County Commission values public's feedback on tough budget decisions

The Pasco County Board of County Commissioners recognizes the difficult economic times facing our citizens and the county. As you have probably read, Pasco County faces a $28.8 million shortfall in revenue due to the decline in property values.

We want our residents and our employees to know that we are doing everything we can to deal proactively with these uncertainties and continue to provide quality service to our citizens. As a result, we are looking closely at every service we provide to continue to serve our citizens in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible.

This is a process that began more than a year ago when we launched the LEAP into excellence initiative. LEAP stands for Lean, Efficient and Accountable Pasco but it is much more than a fancy title or catchphrase. More than ever, the current economic downturn dictates that we eliminate activities that are not essential, streamline our processes and focus our increasingly limited resources on key priorities. Through the LEAP initiative, staff identified efficiencies and cost savings that lowered operating budgets for the 2008-09 fiscal year. These departmental budget reductions, together with the hiring freeze, delay of capital expenditures and reductions in reserves, resulted in a budget decrease of 19 percent last year.

The LEAP initiative is also an ambitious strategic planning process that seeks to improve the way Pasco County does business. We need your help to do this. Over the next few months, we will be conducting an extensive community outreach effort to determine what our citizens want and need most (or what our citizens think is the most efficient use of limited tax revenue). We will conduct surveys, both written and online, hold small focus groups and large stakeholder meetings to hear what our citizens have to say. We need your input as we reshape the future of Pasco County and identify our key priorities and goals for the next several years.

To help us in this effort, we have contracted with a team of experts, the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), to implement a proven model of performance excellence throughout county government.

These are difficult times that will require difficult and potentially unpopular decisions. Cuts to public services, the elimination of some county positions and an increase in the property tax rate are all options that have to be considered. We are doing all we can to minimize the impacts of these decisions on our citizens and employees. Over the next few weeks, the county's budget director, Michael Nurrenbrock, will author a series of columns explaining in more detail how the budget process works. These will also be posted to the county's Web site.

As we move through this process, we are committed to keeping the public informed every step of the way. To that end, we have created a page on our Web site dedicated to the LEAP initiative. You may find it by going to the Pasco County home page, www.pascocountyfl.net, and clicking on the LEAP into excellence button on the left. Here we will post the results of our citizen surveys, along with periodic updates on the budget and strategic planning process. Also on this Web page is a link to a customer comment card and an employee suggestion form. We encourage you to use these to share your thoughts and concerns with us. As always, we welcome your feedback and suggestions and look forward to hearing from you.

John Gallagher is Pasco County administrator.

Pasco County Commission values public's feedback on tough budget decisions 03/05/09 [Last modified: Thursday, March 5, 2009 6:05pm]

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