Prince William Franken-County: Waste Behind the scenes in County govt.
People in Prince William County government report that if Prince William County were an actual business, it would have gone bankrupt because of pure inefficiency and refusal to modernize. That sure paints a different picture than El Jefe the chairman paints.
Corey Stewart tried to tell us, in his recent letter to the editor in the News & Messenger, that Prince William County ranks above all others; so much so that the federal government ought to follow our model. Why is he crowing, blowing and bragging? He wants the supposed county accomplishments on his personal resume for his bid for Lt. Governor. Corey wants us to believe that our taxes haven’t risen and that government is acting responsibly, all while forking over tax payer money to his power broker buds heading up pet projects. In turn, his war chests are filled. Deepthroat tells another story.
Corey tries to sell the taxpayers a bill of goods based on tooth fairy money and spending. He tells us rubes what he thinks we want to hear. In the first place, if you lower the tax rate and raise the real estate assessment, you haven’t lowered taxes. Money talks and we know what walks.
Secondly, Prince William County is no positive model, regardless of what Corey says. While goods and services aren’t getting cheaper, the county continues to operates with a flat budget. Now we all know that won’t work, but Corey tells us what we want to hear. Cheaper isn’t always better. Cheaper attracts those who want to live on a shoestring and have little regard for quality of life issues. Is that what we want pouring into our county? Of course not.
What Corey doesn’t tell us is that Prince William County is operating on a 30 year old business model that just isn’t efficient. There is continual increase on contract costs for goods and services, yet the county has that flat operating budget which means something just isn’t getting done. There isn’t enough money to go around to run Prince William County as it should be run.
Examples of county inefficiency are listed under specific categories. These are but the tip of the iceberg:
Equipment Replacement: There are few provisions for replacement programs for equipment. Currently the county needs to replace surveillance equipment and training equipment for public safety. Vehicle replacement is failing also, which is another public safety issue.
Accounting processes: expenditure tracking and payroll are largely manual processes therefore they require lots of clerical staff. There is no automated personnel management system, no procurement cards so massive clerical support is needed.
Contract Management: Unsatisfactory contract management is the norm due to untrained staff dealing with out-moded processes. Once again, large numbers of clerical staff are needed to support mostly manual processes. This condition needs to change.
Internal technology: Internal technology infrastructure is nonexistent – innovative automated process changes for 39 agencies and millions of dollars in expenditures flow through ONE program developer.
Venders: Many vendors don’t want to do business with PWC because of the continued paper process that other jurisdictions have eliminated. PWC’s system or lack thereof is outdated, costly, and time-consuming to use. Invoicing, purchase orders and 39 county agencies collect and process payroll data manually for 4,000 employees.
All money disappears June 30 so all changes have to be made in a year. A biennial budget would serve the county better. Modernizing technology infrastructure would make a huge difference forcing Prince William County to be dragged screaming and kicking into the third millennium.
Most money is handled via manual processes. The 2nd largest county in the State of Virginia is a coal burning dinosaur engine where it just doesn’t need to be. It could be a sleek new energy efficienct engine built for a world class county.
While all staff knows they serve at the board’s behest, many feel their focus is to constantly address the BOCS spins on what the employees are doing wrong at great expense. The budget season is a nightmare. The BOCS dreams up 6 budget scenarios and expects staff to figure these all out. Meanwhile, the dream time is vampiring away the time staff has to run the business of the county.
Intense meetings are held which create giant time blocks of non-productivity. For example, there is a weekly meeting that involves 39 county agencies with at least 70 total staff involved. The purpose is to filter out what staff does, what they can stop doing and how to pick what is important. It’s called Budget Congress. Most dangerously, it pits agencies against each other competing for resources. Most of what is decided doesn’t even come from that group. Aside from the meetings there is a constant barrage of weekly “deliverables”. These also generate from the Budget Congresses. Staff has to risk-rank activities, filtering all activities to identify those that are failing (I kid you not) because only those are “eligible” for resources. Who ever heard of getting homework every week on the job?
Every week for two or three months the brightest and busiest of the staff sit around a weekly meeting, just dying for the meeting to be over then they have five hours of weekly homework and they get to have all their top folks stop what they’re doing to “participate”. That is exactly how it was described to me. It’s not just money spent on paper, its staff hours doing these Mickey Mouse “exercises” that never see the light of day. Wasted man-hours it used to be called in the old days.
Corey, truly fiscally conservative people invest in a modernized system that is built for change when needed. The system needs to be one that can sustain and change without unsetting the apple cart. Prince William County is a 30 year old Frankenstein held together with duct tape. This must change.
Cheaper isn’t better. Smarter is better. Did I mention that happy employees are the most productive? Maybe the county should look at Wegmans as a model. Meanwhile, El Jefe is simply full of crap. There is no nice way to say it.
Furthermore, the AAA bond rating has nothing to do with Corey. If attributed to one human being it has everything to do with the brilliance of Chris Martino. That Triple A rating has been 10 years in the making.
The citizens of Prince William County should demand that our county operate in an efficient way. In the long run it will save us a whole lot of money.
Modernizing county government should be a top priority, even if they have to bring in an outside group to tell them how to do it. They certainly didn’t mind outside studies being made during immigration and they should not mind now. It is high time to pull the duct tape off Franken-county and create a mean, lean, efficient machine.