Cost Accounting in Local Government

The Power of Why

As local governments pull themselves out of the rubble of the recession and revenues slowly start to increase, there is now an important opportunity to ask yourself, “Why do we do it that way?”

We all know that as staffing has decreased processes have changed just to be able to adjust to the smaller amount of available time.  But what is created during a crisis is usually not the most efficient way of doing something.

So before you consider increased staffing or changes in fees, take the time to sit down and figure out if there is a better way to do things.  Sometimes it is removing unnecessary steps. Sometimes it is asking the City Council if this particular application can instead be approved by the Planning Commission or even by staff. And sometimes it is determining who should be performing a particular service.

This is crucial for two reasons.  First, we know that even as revenues increase, staffing levels lag far behind, as there is a reluctance to expand. Second, it shows the community that you are a careful steward of their tax dollars as you look first for efficiencies.

Now, of course, this is more complicated than just going around asking why.  Process improvement itself is a process that should be carefully thought out, as it will differ from department to department.  In the Planning or Building & Safety areas a step-by-step analysis of your various processes may be in order.  For Police & Fire it may be something along the line of how calls are dispatched and how you respond.

Of course, none of this is new.  But as your agency recovers from the recession, take advantage of this point in time to jump in to process improvement and ask “Why?”

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