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City Departments scheduled to share goals, challenges with Council

By LAURA FREEMAN Reporter Published: March 29, 2017 12:01 AM
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Council members began meeting face to face with department leaders March 14 to learn about special projects and expenses that could impact the 2018 budget.

City Manager Jane Howington established a budget calendar based on input from a retreat two weeks ago.

"One of the major things was meetings with departments over major expenditure and projects over the first six months of the year so Council would be more aware of things built into the budget," Howington said.

The reviews will focus on a SWOT analysis to identify strengths and weakness in the departments and give an overview of major challenges and opportunities, Howington said.

"One of elements of the [retreat] discussion was how to get interaction with the departments," said Council member Dennis Hanink. "You've given us a schedule for this year. We'll go through the rest of the process."

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Howington amended the draft calendar for the late start.

"The staff is energetic and empowered to move our organization forward, and they have had a lot of initiatives, and we're changing the face of the organization," she said.

Although many members of the Hudson city staff have been employees for a long time, the city faces the threat of losing traditional knowledge, Howington said.

"Each department will have some of these issues," she said. "Every time someone retires or leaves we look at the position."

The city is focusing on more team effort and technology to maintain a strong and high performance but she warns an economic downturn or unfunded mandates from the state or federal government could turn the city into an unstable community.

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The organizational charts for departments are dynamic and evolving, she said.

"We're constantly monitoring our staff and looking where we should move staff," Howington said.

Council doesn't always see all the functions the departments do every day and the re-occurring things that happen each year, Howington said. It isn't shown in the budget.

"It's the non-sexy operational things," she said. "We have our staff who handles all of this."

When the staff has to also work on special projects, it thins the staff, Howington said. Council has to be aware of how many special projects are put on staff and the priorities.

"This drives the base number of people and where you would look for improvements so you don't need as many people," Hanink said.

Departments with one or two employees have been combined with other departments for cross-training and backup, Howington said. The Information Services department has been added to the Finance Department.

Information Services is looking at new software to increase performance and efficiency, Howington said. The Finance Department is looking at finance transparency and higher performance.

"These innovations will offset some of the expenses so we can do more with less," Hanink said.

On March 28 Information Services was scheduled to present City Council with an update on Broadband about major accomplishments and innovations.

In April Council will review major projects like the Downtown Phase II project. A finance advisor will give information about a development agreement and the rationale for it.

Its a public private-partnership with for-profit and not-for-profit entities, and the city needs to be aware of all the opportunities it has, Howington said.

The annual road trip to view city roads that need paving is in April. The Public Works departments will meet with Council about its budget during April and early May.

In May Council will meet with the safety departments.

Some of the department heads will meet with Council again during the fall budget talks, Howington said.

"I'm in favor of the overall plan," said Council President Hal DeSaussure. "Department heads come in earlier in the year, and we'll still talk to them at budget time."

Council member Alex Kelemen said he would like to receive the department information at least 10 days in advance instead of the weekend before.

"I would have liked to see the March 28 material today or tomorrow and give me a week to formulate a question and a week for you to give us the answers," Kelemen said. "I understood it to be everything that drives the budget and not just the budget."

Howington said she would work the advanced notice into the schedule.

Email: lfreeman@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9434

Twitter: @LauraFreeman_RP

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