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FY2011 COH Budget - Day 5

Meeting Notes - June 9, 2010

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On June 9th, there were several budget workshop meetings for the Human Resources Department (HR), the Department of Finance, the Department of Administration and Regulatory Affairs (ARA), the Mayor’s Office, the Houston Emergency Center (HEC), and for Affirmative Action.

Human Resources

The Human Resources Department has six divisions: communications, benefits, safety, salary administration, training, and worker’s compensation. According to its budget report, the HR department “provides overall policy direction on human resource management issues and administrative support functions related to the management of employees for all City departments.”  It also administers the Health Benefits, Workers Compensation, and Long Term Disability programs and coordinates the Combined Municipal Campaign program, the Employee Recognition program, and temporary employee services. Further information on all of these programs is available on the Human Resources Department’s website. In addition, it publishes newsletters reporting City events, activities, and employee information. Made up of forty-one full-time employee equivalents, the HR Department’s proposed budget for FY2011 is about $3.4M from the General Fund, of which $2.8M goes toward personnel services. Click here to view the department’s budgetary PowerPoint presentation.

Overall, several separate funds contribute to HR’s proposed budget, in addition to the General Fund. Two internal service funds go toward the Human Resources Department’s yearly expenditures, which are the Health Benefits Fund ($333,933,232.00) and the Long-Term Disability Fund ($1,705,759.00). As well, there are two revolving funds involved, including the Workers’ Compensation Fund ($20,748,908.00) and the Central Service Revolving Fund ($15,739,217.00).

Administrators of the HR Department are trying to centralize citywide HR functions into a single, centralized HR model by the end of this year. As of now, many departments at the City of Houston have their own HR divisions, which has been found to be an inefficient model.

Several council members had questions regarding the high cost of health benefits currently paid by the City. COH has been self insured since 1976, and health care costs have been escalating over the years. The office is trying to bring health care costs down as much as possible, but much of it is unavoidable due to contractual agreements. With the coming of the new federal health care legislation in 2014, the department is working on preparing a strategic plan to have in place for the City by that time.

Finance

At 2:40pm, the Director of the Finance Department, Michelle Mitchell presented the department’s proposed $10M budget for FY2011, which is solely funded by money from the General Fund.

According to Mitchell’s presentation, the department’s mission objectives are to:

-Demonstrate integrity, accountability, consistency, professionalism and a strong work ethic.
-Emphasize strategic financial planning and performance reporting.
-Maximize the effective and efficient use of public funds.
-Execute directives and policies of the Administration and City Council.
-Build a cohesive team of highly qualified talented professionals based on trust, respect, and mutual support.
-Provide excellent customer service.

Director Mitchell also discussed several departmental goals for FY2011. The department will develop a fee audit analysis to present to the Mayor and Council, which Mitchell hopes, will increase City revenue by $15 million. They also plan to ensure that the $22M in savings is realized through financially managing the consolidation of fleet management, fuel, HR and IT. Also, the department hopes to improve the annual auditing process, complete contractual labor negotiations, improve citywide processes and the documentation of internal controls, grants, fixed assets and balance sheets, and strengthen internal city partnerships to assist with economic development efforts. By the end of September 2010, they hope to have finished preparing the FY2012 draft budget.

Of their $10.7M budget, Director Mitchell reported that $1.7M goes toward paying an outside auditing agency and that 67.38% of the department’s expenditures goes toward paying personnel services.

ARA

According to the department’s budget proposal, “The Administration and Regulatory Affairs Department serves the citizens of the community and provides support to the City departments through sound management of the City’s financial activities. It implements and monitors policies and procedures concerning the administrative, insurance management, procurement and regulatory affairs of the City.”

The department’s objectives are to:

-Demonstrate integrity, accountability, consistency, and professionalism.
-Provide excellent customer service.
-Emphasize strategic financial planning and performance reporting.
-Maximize the effective and efficient use of public funds.
-Follow directives and policies of City Council and City management.
-Build a cohesive team based on trust, respect, and mutual support.

Led by Director Alfred Moran, the ARA has about 480 employees and receives funding from four separate funds. From the General Fund, the department gets about $32.6M. An enterprise fund, the Parking Management Operating Fund contributes $16M to ARA for FY2011. Two revolving funds, the Property & Casualty Fund ($12M) and the Central Service Revolving Fund ($4M) add to ARA’s proposed budget.

Director Moran included several goals for the upcoming year in his presentation to City Council. The ARA hopes to improve BARC operations and adoptions, implement the citywide automated time and attendance system, increase the percentage of COH vehicles sold online from thirty-three to ninety-seven percent, and continue to enhance the regulatory relationship between the City and Centerpoint Energy.

Much of the workshop’s discussion centered on the BARC facility. The ARA took charge of the program about a year ago and has managed to make many improvements, such as creating financial stability and incorporating better sanitation practices.

Mayor’s Office/HEC/Affirmative Action

The Mayor’s Office, the Houston Emergency Center and the Affirmative Action & Contract Compliance departments all presented during the last workshop session of the day, starting at 5:15pm.

The proposed $3M FY2011 budget for the Mayor’s Office was presented by Chief of Staff Linda Chen. It was a very short presentation, as it is a very small department with only thirty-six employees. Ninety-four percent of the department’s budget goes toward paying personnel services, with the rest of the funds paying for other services and charges, non-capital equipment, debt services and other uses. The Mayor’s Office receives funds from one Special Revenue Fund, the Cable Television Fund ($3M), which pays for Houston Television programming. The City Council did not have many questions regarding the budget for the Mayor’s Office.

The Houston Emergency Center receives funding from the General Fund and from a Special Revenue Fund entitled, the Houston Emergency Center.

Below is the mission of the HEC, according to their budget proposal.

The mission of the Houston Emergency Center (HEC) is to provide the citizens of Houston with the most efficient, accurate and professional service when processing their life-threatening calls. HEC in coordination with the Office of Emergency Management protects life and property by operating the public safety communications’ system and by coordinating and managing emergency situations. The Information Technology division is responsible for the administration, maintenance and operations of the police, Fire/EMS Comuter Aided Dispatch System, radio system and Records Management Systems.

The HEC runs the 9-1-1 Call Center for the City of Houston and is heavily funded by grants. Most of its $23M General Fund budget actually ends up being reimbursed by the Greater Harris County 9-1-1 Call Center. The HEC estimates that it receives about 9,000 calls a day. This means they get about two million emergency and one million non-emergency calls a year. For FY2011, some of HEC’s goals are to answer 90% of emergency calls and 80% of non-emergency calls within ten seconds. They also aim to maintain IT functionality as best as possible and maintain the radio communication system so that is running one hundred percent of the time. The only increases found in the FY2011 budget are due to personnel service expenditures.

Director Velma Laws presented for the Mayor’s Office of Affirmative Action and Contract Compliance. The department’s proposed $2M budget for FY2011 is solely supported by the General Fund. Established by Resolution 81-2, the office “promotes equal access, employment, and economic opportunity at every level of City government.”

The department’s mission is stated below.

To provide quality certification, compliance, business development, and training programs, while maintaining high standards of customer service and accountability.

The Affirmative Action Office aims to continue to maximize resources by partnering with other agencies in business development activities, ito increase the use of technology to operate more efficiently, to enhance the Mentor Protégé programs and much more.

(Photo Credit: eschipul)

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