Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Program Prioritization computer model perfected > The Independent > News > Local

Program Prioritization computer model perfected > The Independent > News > Local: "Program Prioritization computer model perfected"
By Tracy Overstreet
Published: Tuesday, July 19, 2011 10:13 PM CDT

Grand Island city officials will be able to sort down to the "granular level" in analyzing the nearly 300 city services provided, what they cost, what they earn, how reliant residents are upon the services and which ones are mandated by state and federal government.Consultants

Jon Johnson and Chris Fabian gave an interactive demonstration Tuesday of the updated Program Prioritization software program they developed that contains detailed data on every Grand Island city service and the rankings the council gave on which services are most important.The demonstration was part of a Grand Island City Council study session at City Hall.

By setting filters on the program, City Administrator Mary Lou Brown can derive various lists of city programs and financial data on those programs.Johnson said the detail will help the council make "better informed choices" in allocating about $31 million of spending for the 2011-2012 budget year that begins Oct. 1.

The city is working to close a $2 million budget gap in the coming weeks.

Johnson said the council may want Brown to generate a list of services offered elsewhere in the community so the council can consider partnering with other service providers and giving up a service the private sector can provide.

Such service reductions could range from softball leagues, swimming lessons or selling cemetery spots, all of which are part of the city's Parks and Recreation Department now, to eliminating security checks on homes or businesses that may be provided by police officers.

Johnson said lists can be derived to show services that could be regionalized, such as bomb squads, hazardous material teams, drug task forces, canine services or animal control.None of the examples shared with the council Tuesday were specific to Grand Island. They were generalizations of how the city could look at ways of doing business a different way under the "new normal" of tightened revenues. Johnson said perhaps the city will want to get out of the cemetery business, but may want to maintain its current cemetery as a park and simply get away from selling lots or performing burials.

He praised the city for what he called a very favorable spending array the city already has. Eighty-one percent of the city's general fund spending occurs to provide the most important city services ranked in Quartile 1 and Quartile 2. Quartile 3 and 4 programs are less relevant to day-to-day city services, but are still important, Johnson said.Some city departments don't even have Quartile 1 or Quartile 2 programs, such as the library, he said.

Council President Peg Gilbert said she's beginning to struggle with the Program Prioritization process that the city started two years ago. It has gotten down to such detail that Gilbert said she's struggling with the potential of making cuts to a service that may not actually be a stand-alone service.

Councilmen Chuck Haase and Mitch Nickerson lauded the program and its detail that they believe will back good decision-making easier. Haase asked for an additional filter to be added that could show the per capita spending for programs based on the number of people using the service.

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