Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Streamlining the Cost of Plainfield City Government

Steps to Cut the Budget

The good fortunes that so many Americans have enjoyed during the period of consumer exuberance have taken a tumble from the height of Wall Street's economic precipice to the abyss of recession, putting severe stresses on municipalities requiring them to think creatively and to act frugally. In this post I will share some additional ideas for streamlining the cost of government and cutting the budget:

1. Combine the City Administrator's position with the position of CFO

2. Transfer WIC to the County

3. Transfer the functions of Plainfield Action Services to the County

4. Transfer the 9-1-1 Dispatch function to the County

5. Transfer the Bi-Lingual Daycare Center to the Plainfield Public School system or to a local non-profit organization, i.e., one of the faith base CDCs

6. End health benefits to all part time employees using the State's health benefits model resolution

7. Combine the Purchasing Agent's position with that of the Director of Administration and Finance. When the Director was interviewed for her current position it was revealed either by way of her résumé or discussion that she is a Qualified Purchasing Agent (QPA). Placing the purchasing function in the hands of a QPA and centralizing all purchasing would go a long way in reducing costs

8. Since cabinet members are not allowed to speak to the council, issue Rice Notices to all of them in an effort to solicit their candid input on the City's overall operations

9. Use bail forfeiture funds to offset the Police department's other operating expenses so as to reduce its budget.

10. Reduce Police overtime budget by $100,000 and allow civilian employees to perform non public safety functions now being performed by some senior officers in the PPD at additional cost to tax payers

11. Eliminate the Director of Public Safety position and allow the Police Director and the Fire Chief to run their respective departments

12. Eliminate the Director of Public Works position and increase the responsibilities of the Superintendent of DPW

13. Shrink the table of organization for the Police department to reduce its top heaviness and to minimize the opportunity for political promotions

14. Implement time and attendance systems across all departments to reduce the likelihood of overtime pilferage

Making these hard decisions would enable the city to rise from the valley of despair to the surface where the shallow waters flow, allowing the City to regain its equilibrium thus preventing property owners from drowning in the abyss of rising property taxes.




Anonymous said...

On the surface all of these cuts seem logical. To what extent can the Council make them happen? Are you indicating your support for all of these cuts, and thereby challenging the other members to support them?
What is your position on maximum tax increases in a given year. Will the Council mark-up of the budget consider the realistic amount of State aid that can be expected.
We are entering a period of time, destined to get much worse, of dwindling State and Federal support. You and the other Council members actions, taken now to get ahead of the curve, will determine the fate of Plainfield for a great many years to come. The Administration has shown no ability to understand much less to have the backbone necessary to deal with the issues.
Please do not use gimmicks, such as deferral of costs to a future year, to close the budget gap. You must make the difficult decisions to not just cut the waste, that always exists, but to think out of the box and drastically change the way the town runs and how it can lead the way toward shared services. Perhaps a weekend summit meeting with the councils of other towns to review options and discuss the broad range of issues that all towns in the area face.

Anonymous said...

Good ideas. But the best of all is to reduce top heavy management such as police director and director of public works and those police and fire that fit this description. Thes are the hard choices but the ones in addition to better implementation of services will enable the city to rise from the valley of dispair.

Bill Hetfield said...

Your political experience, education and life experiences gives you great insight into what must be done if Plainfield is to become an economic and socially viable community - once again. I hope you have courage to convert this sophistication into results-the hallmark of effective leadership.
Best regards,

Anonymous said...


All good ideas, but have you, or anyone else done a cost analysis of what savings these ideas will really bring on the short and long term?

Have you talked to other municipalities that have done these kind of changes, like giving WIC, 911, and community oriented services, such as PAS and the Bilingual Day Care Center to the county and CDCs? By the way, could you clarify how the Bilingual Day Care Center works? I was under the impression that it was State & Federal Grants that supported it.

Is the council ready to ax all "provisional" employees, and take it a step further by drafting an ordinance that will prohibit the future use of such employees?

If you were to be successful on abolishing the administrators' titles you are suggesting, will there be a an ordinance abolishing these two titles from the city's charter?

I will appreciate any answers.


Maria Pellum

Anonymous said...

Cut all provisionals like Bernice suggests. Then take away all the stipends and health and insurance benefits for all appointed commissioners including PMUA, Plfd Housing Authority and any others. Cut council and mayor pay and make council and mayor pay for their health benefits. End benefits for mayor and council dependents since it is a part time position.

Anonymous said...

Is the Council willing to introduce an ordinance or resolution stopping at least future health and dental benefits? Maybe this can be done at the next council meeting. I think it's a great suggestion and would be a good first step.

Bernice said...

The city's special charter calls for the three department heads and it can only be changed by the state Legislature. A Charter Study Commission recommended some of the changes in 1990, but the council took no action to set the process in motion. It would take a couple of years. This commission met for six months and sought testimony from past mayors and officials but then the council at the time just said "thanks" and disregarded the findings.

Anonymous said...

In response to Bernice's comments about department heads. There must be more than one way to "skin the cat." They are a redundency, are overpaid and underworked. Residency requirement? I'm sure that thoughtful evaluation by council can find a way to encourage these pay-for-play employees to move on.

Anonymous said...

Have you stepped forward and requested your pay be cut?

have you stepped forward and requested no health benefits?

Do you have a City cell phone?

Adrian said...

I lead by example; I declined health benefits for a savings to the city of $15,000. I had the option of taking 1/3 of the cost of health benefits as an incentive to give up those benefits, however, I decline the incentive pay. Bottom line - I am saving Plainfield's tax payers $15,000 per year. I encourage other city employees to follow my lead by giving up perks and giving back to the city. Our collective bargaining units need to be sensitive to the plight of the tax payers and must be willing to take the necessary actions that would eliminate the need for layoffs. Please give me a call if you wish to have a rational discussion about any and all of the suggestions I have made in my last two posts.

Yes, I have a city cell phone; please call me on it at 908-380-4150 to discuss my suggestions for cost savings or other suggestions you may have.


Anonymous said...

I read the comments to your suggested action steps with a smile and a shake of the head. Why are people so skeptical or challanging when it comes to change? Instead, they should be applauding when they see the first sign of leadership: seeing something that needs changing. The second step, which your suggestions are openers, and are certainly not all inclusive, is taking action with others to get results. A thought: Why doesn't Cory Storch call upon the Economic Development Committee to deal with this issue. I'm confident these thoughtful Plainfielders can add a dimension that the Budget Committee does not bring to the table. Stay the course Adrian! We must succeed.

Tony said...

Adrian, I echo Maria comments. What are the timelines for each recommendation and the cost savings? How will the reductions affect quality of service? Will and can the County perform the services you recommended and will the quality suffer. I.E if the takes over 911 will not improve or maintain or reduce Quality of Service for Plainfield? Same questions for PAC and WIC recommendations.