Once again the Los Alamos County’s (LAC’s) budget season is coming. And once again I’m writing about what the Council needs to do about it, especially in this time of a new deadly plague and dire predictions for the economy.
Over the previous 5 years I’ve written and made presentations in preparation for the budget hearings. I provided documentation on various issues, and I’m following up on them once again. This time perhaps they will finally listen and act.
One of the issues I brought up was the decrease in front-line workers ( -45 in the last 5 years), while middle management was increasing. The consequence of this became clear last year when LAC was caught in the snow emergency. The lack of available personnel was painfully obvious. Council can’t shirk the responsibility and blame that you and the county’s upper management share for this.
The over-management issue continues. In the last 6 years, 2 Assistant County Manager positions were created, although one has now been renamed. Also during that time, about a dozen “Management Analyst” positions were created. A public records request of the work done by these folks showed only 2 (in Utilities) were regularly doing any actual analyses; it seems the rest were merely another covert layer of managers.
Our Information Management division, already much bigger, in both numbers and percentage than any other comparable city or county, rather than being reduced, is staying as is. The county needs to winnow it down by at least half and use contractors as needed, especially now that the new enterprise software is in place. And in Purchasing and the Warehouse, even though the volume of purchases and materials is down considerably (30% since 2 years ago, last I heard), due to the use of P-cards and direct deliveries to the departments, the staffing levels remain the same.
As things stand, LAC will have to cut its budget. Had the Council taken steps to trim personnel through attrition, it may have mitigated the need for layoffs. Council should not have gone ahead with some public works projects that were rejected by the voters; they should not have given away public lands which necessitated forcing out a paying tenant; and they should have reined in their general overspending.
It’s not all bad – the Council decided to stop robbing from Utilities! Transferring out their earnings to the rest of the county was unethical, a covert way of raising taxes, and causing Utilities to raise their rates. I’m glad they left these funds for re-investment in utilities public works.
To repeat – Your job as Councilors is to make the county use taxpayers’ hard-earned money as efficiently and transparently as possible. You should not rubber-stamp everything presented by the county management, but to question everything and take corrective measures. Don’t let the citizens/taxpayers down again.
Jose Carreño, MBA