True to her analytical background, Council member Megan Pratt focused her city budget inquiries on the city’s organizational chart, programs and policies. They don’t appear to involve any changes in the dollars in the budget so it will interesting to see how the Mayor’s responds and how the rest of the council will vote on these changes.
CLARIFICATION ON THE DEPARTMENTS OF THE CITY:
The new charter speaks explicitly to the council’s responsibility regarding confirmation of city department heads. During the mayor’s office budget presentation, the Chief of Staff indicated that there are 13 departments. In the organizational chart on pg 36, there are 16 departments listed under the city administrator, plus the clerk and attorney. There is clearly a discrepancy here. It is important that this structure be clear.
CLARIFICATION ON THE PLANNING DEPARTMENT ORGANIZATIONAL CHART
The Planning Department organizational chart on page 313 does not clearly indicate the chain of command, the relationship between the various activities in the department. More clarity is needed to justify the budget.
MORE DETAIL OR NEW PROGRAM LISTING IN PLANNING DEPARTMENT.
The Planning Department has acquired a new Sustainability Administrator. However, the existing program descriptions do not include any new impact of this position. Rather, the verbiage is almost exactly the same as the last budget. The role of the new administrator needs to be better explained.
PARKS VOLUNTEER COORDINATOR AND SPECIAL PROJECTS COORDINATOR PROGRAM DESCRIPTIONS
The Neighborhood Services department has added two new position types, the volunteer coordinator and special projects coordinator. A program description with related, tangible objectives would better justify their funding.
APPROPRIATIONS BY ACTIVITY TO MORE CLEARLY REFLECT THE CHARTER-MANDATED ORGANIZATION.
The city attorney and city clerk, by the charter, are required to serve the entire city. Therefore, there should not be a level between them and the council or the other departments. They should be listed above the mayor on pg 9.
The MIS organizational chart has numerous positions with illogical pay classifications. A proposed change would be to assign the MIS Administrator (currently C-23) to MIS Director (C-05), the Information Management Specialist (currently C-05) to GE-23 (what it has been previously), and the Public Information Officer (currently C-04) to GE-15 through GE-23 (comparable to department peers). Alternatively, the PIO could be transferred to the Mayor’s Office.
The city’s civil service and contract employee structure typically follows a logical structure. Department heads, who often are recruited nationally, are contract employees, typically at the C-05 range. In many cases their assistant department heads (approximately C-04) are also contract employees, along with their administrative assistants (C-02 and C-01). The MIS department (pg 203) is jumbled up. The department head is listed as GE-23, a civil service position. The assistant department head in charge of information management is C-05. Underneath that position is a public information officer at C-04.
The Information Management Program description is little changed, except for the format and wording of the objectives, from the previous budget. In that budget, the assistant department head in charge of information management was a GE-23. I recommend that that salary range be reinstated for that position. Additionally, the public information officer, if it stays as organized in this proposed budget, should be a civil service position as well, possibly in the range of the other employees in this subdepartment.
In the MIS department there is a new program, called public information. While providing better information to the public about the accomplishments of the city is important, this program is a little unclear. The description says that this program will receive direction and approval directly from the Mayor’s office. However, the position that will staff this program is many layers below the mayor. It logically would follow that at least part of this program should be staffed by the mayor’s office. There will be need of some technical expertise, in this program, of course. If the intent is to staff the technical part of this program using the new proposed public information officer, the salary range proposed appears too high for the current market.
CHANGES TO PUBLIC INFORMATION PROGRAM DESCRIPTION
The program description states “The Public Information staff will also be the primary decision maker in policy development….” While this person should make recommendations on social media, the charter considers the council the governing body of the City and the Mayor the administrator, making the elected officials the “primary decision maker in policy development” in concert with the Mayor. That phrasing should be removed from that job description to make it more reflective of the different roles of staff and elected officials.
SEPARATE PROGRAM DESCRIPTION PAGE FOR LOBBYING, CONSULTANT, TOWN HALL MEETINGS, AND SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT MAILOUTS, AS WELL AS GRANT WRITING AND PUBLIC RELATIONS (IF APPLICABLE).
On page 26 the budget indicates that these services will be provided in the office of the mayor. The program descriptions in the budget, however, do not reflect how these services will be provided. The City Administrator’s Office description is inward looking, appropriately, while the Office of the Mayor program appears to consist solely of the mayor’s salary and benefits. More information on the budgeting for these important programs (as well as more information on the anticipated use of consultants) is desirable.
REMOVAL OF ESCAMBIA TREATING SITE – LAND FROM PFP FUNDS TO THE PFP FUND BALANCE.
The Escambia Treating Site project is a very unique project, with unusual potential and possible liabilities. While I have made an effort since the budget was released to further understand the request, I think a full discussion of this project would be beneficial for the council and the citizens to understand the effort. I would anticipate, after this discussion, the council would be in a better position to support the appropriation of funds. Unfortunately, the budget process is compressed and there isn’t adequate time to have such a detailed discussion or do our homework before the final votes are taken. I would then anticipate this line item would be brought back for a supplemental budget resolution in the near future, appropriating funds from the fund balance at that time.
REMOVAL OF SECTIONS (B) AND (C) FROM NATURAL GAS INSTALLATION SERVICES (PG 397)
Sections (b) and (c) are policy changes that should be discussed by the council outside of the budget process, particularly since they aren’t expected to impact the proposed budget. These changes may put government employees in competition with private sector employees, and a similar program raised significant concern in the community. The council should weigh these changes with full input.
PROPOSED RANGES FOR N/R POSITIONS (P 467) OTHER THAN CIVIL SERVICE
In past budgets, N/R ranges were used, outside of the civil service staff, for the attorney and city manager. Those positions were directly negotiated by the council, providing the council direct financial oversight. Under the new charter, the council no longer directly hires any personnel and the salary ranges for all positions, except for the civil service staff, should be listed in the budget to make clear appropriations. Along with the proposed ranges, proposed job descriptions might be beneficial for justifying the ranges to the council.