Government Doing More with Less

As the City of Houston’s 2011 fiscal year winds down, hard decisions have been made to overcome a $70 million shortfall. Enacting mandatory furloughs and lay-offs, reducing library hours and closing some neighborhood pools are just a few of the methods the city administration has chosen to use to balance this year’s budget. With such cuts in place, it is expected that this year’s budget will indeed be balanced by June 30. Yet according to a recent media release from the City Controller’s office, projected revenue may decline close to 3% in fiscal year 2012, with a possible $30 million deficit on the horizon.

While these numbers may seem large, the state’s fiscal situation is worse. In an effort to battle an estimated $27 billion deficit, substantial cuts were made this year to areas such as education and social services assisting the elderly and the poor. According to some state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, reaching a balanced budget next session won’t be much easier.

Reinventing government is no longer just a campaign slogan, it is now a necessity.

One way to reinvent government is to begin by scrutinizing departments and processes. Are there ways to provide the same services with less people? Sometimes, but certainly not always. Yet we are seeing personnel cuts in all areas of government while constituents demand the same level of services.

This dilemma may be addressed by ensuring that directors, managers and supervisors have the proper training and education. If there was ever the need to “think outside the box” to achieve more with less, this is the time.

The nationally accredited Certified Public Manager (CPM) program aims to meet this need. CPM provides professionals with the knowledge to address today’s challenges through lectures, discussions, role-playing exercises, special projects, field trips and networking. Affordable and flexible, CPM students learn skills in budgeting, management and motivation, communication and the use of technology among other critical aspects of effective administration. Taught by university professors and successful leaders from the public and private sectors, CPM students gain understanding of theoretical management concepts while learning applied skills.

Earlier this month, the University of Houston Hobby Center for Public Policy celebrated its first two CPM graduates Sadie Rucker and Donald Curry. Rucker is a long-time executive administrative aide to State Senator Rodney Ellis, and Curry is a veteran superintendent in the City of Baytown’s Department of Public Works. Although enjoying successful careers, they both felt it important to seek additional training for their own growth as well as to benefit their staff and colleagues.

“Lessons learned from CPM will assist me in the interplay of city, county, state and federal affairs, especially in a period of budget cuts throughout all agencies. Acting as a whole and working together will bring continuity and balance to best serve our constituents,” said Rucker.

According to Curry, “Having less financial resources has mandated a greater focus on human capital and increased ingenuity.” The City of Baytown’s Public Works director Darryl Fourte, who supervises managers including Curry, adamantly agrees. “Continued education unlocks doors to future potential,” said Fourte. “We’re not only proud of Donald’s significant accomplishment, but also excited and encouraged to be developing a future city leader. Donald is an integral part of the Public Works team, and he serves as an inspiration to his coworkers. Thanks to the Certified Public Manager program, he is better prepared to make informed business decisions.”

In a period of declining revenues and increasing cutbacks combined with shrinking human resources and escalating public demands, education is key. Whether working in the public or private sector, it is wise for all of us to follow the lead of Sadie and Donald in learning the necessary skills to do more with less.

Author: This blog entry was written by Renée Cross, Associate Director, Hobby Center for Public Policy.

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