Letter To The Editor: Los Alamos County’s Budget Season Is About To Begin … So Pay Attention

By JOSE CARRENO, MBA
Los Alamos
 
As Los Alamos County’s (LAC’s) budget season begins, I would like to provide our citizens some information. 
 
Recently I wrote to all Council members and made a presentation at their meeting of my intent to bring this proposal to the Council during the coming budget process. All the Councilors had stated at one time or another how they support greater efficiency in the county – now it’s time to begin to make it happen. When Council was given this data last year, it “considered” and no changes were made.
 
First of all, a discussion of the new enterprise software about to be implemented. Cayenta (the current software) has been obsolete for more than 10 years, and is very user unfriendly. It even required one to two full-time IT people to deal with its multiple problems. All in all, keeping it so long probably cost the taxpayers close to $2 million unnecessarily.
 
Included in the data provided was information about our IT department. I surveyed a few counties around the state, and got data from respondents regarding their IT departments. The data showed that LAC has by far the largest of these departments, in relation to both overall county population and county employees.
 
At least one is doing work previously done by PAC-8 interns, thus putting in a high-paid employee and depriving the interns of valuable experience. Other counties use contractors as needed rather than employing (expensive) individuals. Once implemented, with the new enterprise software IT could eliminate some positions.
 
Then there is the issue of increasing management positions. The information provided showed:
 
The President of the US and the CEO of WalMart have direct responsibility over 16 and 13 departments respectively, and millions of employees. The LA County Manager oversees six personnel/departments and the Manager’s/Council’s staff. The Deputy County Managers (DCM) only oversee three departments each. Presumably each Cabinet Secretary and Sr. VP at WalMart are experts entrusted with their areas, likewise with those department heads below the DCM.
 
Which raises the question – Why does LAC need two DCMs? These highly-compensated positions did not exist before Mr. Burgess’ arrival, yet all the previous County Managers somehow got by. With the recent departure of one DCM, I believe this creates an excellent opportunity for the Council to eliminate that position, or better yet, both of them.
 
Also, LAC has up to six levels of management for county personnel. In contrast, WalMart stores in the US have only eight levels, while handling more than 5,200 stores and 1.4 million employees. Having worked there myself, I can attest that the demands on the managers for greater efficiency is ever ongoing.
 
Another area in which staff savings could be realized is in Purchasing. Since the Procurement Card (or county credit card) program started, the volume of purchase orders is down considerably. 
 
I believe that, over time, LAC has grown fat in the middle (management), in the IT department, and other areas. In the last few years, about 50 worker FTEs were cut, so as workers were being asked to do more with less, management was doing less with more. Reductions should include the “flattening” (removal) of managerial levels to four or fivr maximum. These changes can be accomplished gradually through attrition and consolidation. These may be only a few of the areas of cost-saving opportunities.
 
I urge you to attend the Council meetings, inform yourself, and demand action. We citizens expect that our tax dollars be spent smartly. It’s time Council seriously looked at our government structure to that end. Then these savings should be used to help the schools, which will need it because of getting their state funding cut. Don’t let Council “consider” this away again.
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