Organizational Process for Dealing with the BRB
The Budget Repair Bill (BRB) signals change for County Boards in Wisconsin. Here’s a review of the current state of affairs that counties are facing.
In discussing the BRB, the Governor has made clear his intent to provide local autonomy in decisions relating to personnel costs in exchange for steep cuts in state aid. What this ultimately means to county government operations will likely be sorted out over the next few years. In the immediate future, however, it will be important for counties to begin developing an organizational structure that is able to respond to the challenges presented in the post-BRB world.
The issues surrounding the BRB and the 2011-2013 Budget have three components: (1) personnel and human resources; (2) financial; and (3) programmatic. Personnel and human resources managers will be required to design and implement a civil service ordinance or grievance procedure that complies with the mandate contained within the Joint Finance Amendment to the BRB. Finance managers will need to analyze the county’s budget in light of the cuts to be contained in the 2011-2013 Budget and determine how much savings must be derived from the county’s current and future budgets in order to align with revenue projections. Finally, program leadership must work with all county departments to identify areas where efficiencies can be created and how county services will be impacted.
One manner in which counties can begin the process of realigning their organizational structure to handle these significant changes is to establish an official Transition Committee. The Transition Committee’s charge should be straight-forward: identify the process by which the evaluation and eventual implementation of change should take place and then establish a timeline for completion. There is no set pattern for developing the process and implementation plan as each county will likely have different challenges to confront. Nonetheless, establishing a Transition Committee and providing that committee a charge will get the process going.
But merely establishing a Transition Committee is not enough. It is critical that counties place the right people on the committee. This includes not only elected officials, but key staff that will be instrumental in ensuring that the committee is effective. For many counties, the Transition Committee will be comprised of the County Board Chair and Chairs and members of the Personnel and Finance Committees. In addition, the committee should also include, either in a voting or nonvoting capacity, staff representatives from Personnel/Human Resources, administration, finance and corporation counsel. While it is important to have a cross-section of people involved in all aspects of county operations, it is equally important to limit direct committee involvement so that the group does not become unmanageable in size.
Since this is a transition team, the life of this committee is not permanent. The issues addressed should be taken in time frames of 30-days, 6 months, 1 year and 2 years. As the Transition Committee develops a timeline, it should regularly report progress to the County Board. While the process may seem cumbersome, establishing a group dedicated to the efficient operations of all facets of the county’s operations will pay dividends for the county for years to come.