Numbers Unclear, But Commissioners Say Change To Be Free

No Formal Estimates Made Yet Of Cost For Employee Reassignments

June 19, 1991|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff writer

The County Commissioners are shuffling county departments and reassigning scores of employees, without having formulated clear estimates of how many man-hours the reorganization will take and how much it will cost.

However, the commissioners say they are confident that when the restructuring is complete in about six months, there will be no additional cost to county taxpayers.

And getting the 825-employee bureaucracy working the way the commissioners want it to will not put an additional strain on an already burdened budget, the commissioners say.

"We're pretty well committed to change and no growth in costs," Commissioner President Donald I. Dell said. "A cost analysis may be worked up, but it won't play a part in our decisions."

Dell said that the changes the board has proposed do not contain "prohibitive" costs.

"There really aren't many costs associated with the restructuring," said Steven D. Powell, the county's management and budget director. "The commissioners have made it perfectly clear that they want this to proceed with no additional funding."

Powell's office has yet to do a cost analysis of theproposed scrambling of county agencies, and, he said, such an analysis would actually show little.

"What we're talking about has nothing to do with higher staffing levels or additional office space," he said.

The commissioners said they don't know how much the reorganization will cost.

"I'm not sure we've got the costs figured out," said Commissioner Julia W. Gouge. "But I'm sure, somewhere down the line, with the shifting of people and responsibilities, we'll find outthe costs."

Some costs are inevitable, however. But most of thosecosts -- moving furniture, painting new offices, ordering new stationery, changing paperwork -- will be negligible, Powell and others say.

For example, the movement of employees in the Department of Natural Resource Protection to new offices in the newly formed Departmentof General Services will be done gradually, by county employees and at little cost, Powell said.

"We're not going to contract for any of the moving services or other services outside of county government," he said. "There will be minimal dollar impact."

Stationery -- the county uses about 212,500 letterheads, envelopes, memos and business cards a year -- costs the county close to $15,900 a year, not including photocopies. The commissioners have ordered all departments to use all of their existing stock of paper products, even if that meanswhiting out obsolete titles and department names.

Not everybody thinks major reorganizations -- this one slashes four departments, reworks major responsibilities and redraws the county's inner-managementcircle -- are cost-free.

"The thing I'd want to know is just how much is it all going to cost," said former Commissioner President John L. Armacost, who presided over a similar revamping of government in1983.

"Shifting spaces could cost money, so could stationery, etc.," he said. "Personnel office certainly has more to do, and that could run into overtime."

Armacost said that he believed such a reorganization could cost as much as $100,000; the commissioners would notcomment on that figure.

Nonetheless, the county's directors have had to spend time working on just how they expect to implement the changes. According to several directors, most of them spent between a day and a week of county time in preparing the implementation reports given to the commissioners on Friday.

An average week of time for a director comes to about $1,115; a week's worth of time for the county's top directors totals more than $14,500.

The directors say some of their employees also will spend some time on the reorganization.For instance, in the Department of Human Resources and Personnel Services -- dubbed "the office of paperwork" by its director, Jimmie Lynn Saylor -- "non-management" level employees will spend a portion of their days for about two weeks to work on the restructuring, Saylor said.

The average daily pay for a non-management county employee is$104.

Powell said the commissioners have essentially barred overtime for work related to the restructuring.

While the cost of the reorganization in dollars isn't considered significant, its cost in frustration and paper-chasing should be quite a bit larger, Powell and others in county government said.

In the budget office alone -- left virtually untouched in the reorganization plans -- thousands of journal entries, accounting and word changes and updated budget figurescould take up more than a week's worth of time.

"Change does involve some work," Powell said.

Human Resources also is unaffected bythe reorganization plan. Except that it, too, will deal with an onslaught of changed employee files, new department names and new payrollrecords.

One aspect of the reorganization's budget implications seems certain: The bottom line of Carroll's $115 million operating budget and $30.5 million capital budget will not change.

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