Letter To The Editor: Council Should Pursue Vice Chair O’Leary’s Budget Process And Format Proposal

Los Alamos

A few weeks ago Council Vice Chair Susan O’Leary proposed a change in the County’s budget process and format. Much of her proposal could improve County operations. In particular, her suggestion to move toward a programatic budget to help the Council and staff manage costs. 

How could it work? The costs of various functions could be compared to other jurisdictions for reasonableness and to identify potential efficiencies.

Out of curiosity, I compared legislative and administrative costs, including finance, information technology and human resources, for three New Mexico communities. I chose this comparison because every dollar spent on administration is not available to provide services, to improve infrastructure or for tax relief. 

The total 2015 budget for these costs for Los Alamos, Taos and Carlsbad are $10.9 million, $2.2 million and $6.2 million, respectively. On a per capita basis the respective costs are $612, $392 and $224.

In my admittedly high level and simple comparison, it appears that Los Alamos spends about $5 million per year more on administration than the average per capita cost of these other communities. Certainly every community is different and there may be very good reasons for Los Alamos’ high relative costs.

Vice Chair O’Leary’s ideas regarding a programatic budget could help our Council and staff analyze these differences and improve the efficiency of our government. Our Council should pursue her proposal.