In the following letter, Mr. Walker of Berkshire Advisors (the consultants conducting the city’s Efficiency Review) explains that progress on providing recommendations has largely been put on hold until various city departments submit the information necessary to complete the analysis. Addressed to the members of the Efficiency Study Selection Committee, in reply to a request for […]
In the following letter, Mr. Walker of Berkshire Advisors (the consultants conducting the city’s Efficiency Review) explains that progress on providing recommendations has largely been put on hold until various city departments submit the information necessary to complete the analysis.
Addressed to the members of the Efficiency Study Selection Committee, in reply to a request for a progress report:
Thank you for your letter dated March 27, 2008 expressing your concern with the progress of our management review of the Petersburg City Government. We appreciate your frustration with the study’s progress and through this letter will explain the reason for the delay in completing the engagement.
As you know, the scope of this engagement was ambitious. Our goal is not simply to develop a list of discrete recommendations that city can implement to improve operational efficiency but to create an overarching management system and approach that the city can use to determine how to best use its scarce resources to serve Petersburg residents.
Our approach to developing this management system and approach is divided into three parts. First, the city must define what its “core” service offerings should be. That is, what are the most basic services the city government must offer its residents and what is the minimum acceptable level at which these services are to be provided. Next, the city should establish reasonable goals for providing services that exceed these core levels and develop an approach to determining the relative value of service offerings that exceed the core offerings. Finally, the cost of providing both the core services and services at a higher level should be calculated and resource allocation decision made that reflect both the cost of improving service above the core level and the benefit or value associated with these improvements.
As your consultants we can develop models that link the cost of service offerings with the level of service desired (both for core service offerings and for services that exceed this “baseline” level of service) in many areas (and can estimate the cost of achieving different service levels where the relationship between service levels and cost are difficult to model precisely). What we hesitate to do, however, is to determine what the core level of service in Petersburg should be and how desired levels of service that exceed these minimums should be set. While we can provide input into those decisions we strongly believe that such decisions should be made by policy makers and department managers.
Our progress in completing the study has been delayed because we have not yet received the feedback from city leaders with regard to how core services should be defined and at what level “baseline” and “desired” levels of service should be set. In particular, to date, only two council members have completed a survey we developed to help define core service offerings and, after repeated requests, several departments have not responded to our request to detail the level at which “baseline” and “desired” services should be set. (While most departments provided needed feedback some time ago, after making repeated requests to the city manager – and in some cases the department heads themselves – feedback on service levels has not yet been received from the following departments: police; finance, libraries; museums/tourism; city assessor; and economic development.) Please note that after receiving the requested information from the department heads we plan to ask the city council to complete a second survey that will be used to value the alternative service offerings.
We have essentially put our work on the project on hold until we receive the requested information from the city council and department heads. While much of the information needed to model service offerings has been developed, inevitably some follow-ups will be needed to develop these models and we want to plan future trips to Petersburg to gather all the needed information in as expeditious a manner as possible. It should take about six weeks to complete our analysis after we receive the requested information from the city council and departments.
I have discussed the need for this information with the City Manager a number of times over the past several months. I spoke with him again this morning and he has assured me that we will receive the information we need from the departments by the end of this week and that the remaining information from the city council will be provided within two weeks. After we receive this information we will prepare the follow-up survey for the city council and will complete our analysis.
I will let you know when we receive the information we have requested from the city and the city council. At that time, I’ll also provide an anticipated date for completing the engagement.
Again, I appreciate your concern about the study progress. We remain fully committed to providing a study report that the city can use to improve its short-term performance while providing a framework for improving the management of the city over the long-term.
Michael H. Walker