NTF WHITE PAPER: ANALYSIS OF DOUGLAS COUNTY FY 2016-2017 BUDGET

Douglascounty124.doc. 7-16.
NEBRASKA TAXPAYERS FOR FREEDOM WHITE PAPER:
OUR ANALYSIS OF THE DOUGLAS COUNTY FY 2016-2017 BUDGET.

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We thank Douglas County Commissioners, other elected county officials, department heads, and staff who provided us with information during the several budget committee hearings. The citizens of Douglas County are fortunate to have a county government willing to share information so transparently with the public.

Noting the high levels of dysfunction in our national and state governments, local governments must provide credible and appropriate representation of their constituents to combat further institutional decay. Local governments better reflect their constituencies. Citizens are more likely to know their local officials and can more conveniently visit with them and attend their meetings. Local government can be more aware of neighborhood concerns and conditions of infrastructure like streets. We expect our local governments to be watchful stewards of our tax dollars. When we spend our own money, we look for the best value we can get by shopping, consulting others who have made similar purchases, and bargaining. We expect all local government officials to treat our tax dollars as if they were their own.

While we offer critical and repeated input on various budget items, we also offer input on the proposed Public Safety Bond Issue, recognizing the critical importance of public safety and the opportunities for cost savings provided by utilizing the unused part of the 156th & West Maple facility.
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A. BUDGET OVERVIEW.

Douglas County has a reaffirmed AAA rating with Standard & Poor and Moodys. It has refinanced bonds at a lower interest rate; new bonds will have a AAA rating. County property valuations have risen only 1.2%, but the TERC unilaterally raised many city valuations west of 72nd Street by 7%. Most departments will keep budgets almost flat, but several are pressing for additional funding, mostly for personnel costs. County personnel department is conducting a comparative salary study now for several departments. CFO could find $2.5 million in possible cuts but must find $2 million more before July 1 to balance the budget. Board may request across the board 1% budget cuts and can transfer one dept. surplus to fill another dept. deficit. Revenues increased by 5.7% but expenditures by 7.4%. Total deficit is $4,170,733; minus county board cuts of $2,663,600 means net deficit of $1,507,133. CFO suggested projecting additional revenues and cutting budgets from several departments to balance budget. Total reserve fund of about $32 million; county will use $1.5 million to lower deficit. There is a $2-3 million surplus currently. No tax increase, and county levy now 6.2% higher than 10 years ago, lower than the inflation rate. County levies only 12-13% of total county property taxes. Total budget is $390,193,807.

NTF General Recommendations:
Stop using one dept. surplus to fill in a deficit from another department that has not controlled its spending. Return excess dollars to the General Fund.
Require each dept. to submit same or similar printed templates on their prospective budgets to make it easier for the public to understand and to promote transparency. Templates should itemize incoming revenues and outgoing expenditures in several categories and compare upcoming fiscal year figures to current fiscal year figures.
Sell property tax liens.
Delay capital improvements and instead investigate using space at 156th & West Maple Rd. for several departments and expansion of services. Use shell space for storage, safe storage for documents, or other utilitarian occupancy.
Understand fiscal consequences of less potential revenue from federal government grants and other programs, e.g., law enforcement grants.
Accelerate solicitation of additional private grant money.
Assign either land line phones or cell phones to each employee but not both. The county spends about $250,000 on cell phones annually; telecommunication costs reach $1 million annually. Employees mostly in the field do not need land lines.
Install one common phone system.
Audit employee phone use.
Continue to increase use of computer technology to dispense with paper records.
Use more fleet vehicles instead of individual dept. vehicles.
Continue periodic strategic planning meetings. Set goals with benchmarks and analyze success or non-success at reaching these benchmarks. These meetings and subsequent actions would eliminate the necessity to dip into cash reserves and use inheritance tax proceeds and surplus funds from various departments to fill budget gaps.
Back plan it to include 4 yr. objectives, 3 yr. objectives, 2 yr. objectives, and 1 yr. objectives.
Peg the rate of growth of county government to county property valuation and property tax levy rate.
Stop attempting to expand services.
Restrict the expansion of types of county government powers.
Restrict the expansion of types of county government spending, e.g., subsidies to community organizations and inheritance tax contributions to the UNMC Cancer Center, which could help lower deficit.
Lobby to eliminate statutory limitations on spending non-property tax revenues, e.g., tourism taxes, drug confiscations. Use these revenues to offset property tax hikes and for other permitted uses.
Make annual lists of both federal and state mandates, with subsets of unfunded mandates.
Lobby to remove unfunded and underfunded state and federal mandates.
Tabulate costs and lobby to rectify inadequate reimbursements from state government, e.g., inmates housed in county jail.
Eliminate some non-mandated services.
Calculate if user fees pay for these services and adjust them to cover time and dept. expense in providing services, e.g., health dept. inspections.
Strengthen internal auditing and agency oversight.
Tackle lack of sufficient accountability for court expenditures, e.g., closely monitor outside attorney fees, Juvenile Court costs.
Consolidate office purchasing to lessen the cost of transporting and storing equipment and supplies.
Lease instead of purchasing vehicles and equipment.
Interlocal agreements to curtail purchasing costs.
Use local, private sector costs and performance standards as standards when evaluating cost and performance of county services instead of comparing with other similar public entities.
Continue to refinance county bonds. Ameritas representative stated that county will see a refund for the public facilities bond. The interest rate on the newer tax-free bonds was only 2.48% because of county AAA credit rating, saving $1.2 million. County can refinance bonds at a lower interest rate on a 5-year basis, saving $11 million. County will refinance bonds in June, 2016. Savings will offer $100,000 for FY 2017 budget.

Labor Costs:
The county has reduced employee numbers requiring compensation, but cost per employee increases because of labor contracts.
Negotiate tougher on union employee salaries and benefits like insurance and dependents insurance.
Demand that unions renegotiate contracts or face layoffs. 3% wage hikes are above inflation rate. The salary adjustment fund is increasing from $1.75 million to $2 million to cover these contracts.
Encourage additional employees to select health savings accounts as an alternative.
Stop 3-4% pay raises and keep raises within cost of living increases.
End all longevity, specialty, and other added pay like step increases, special time off, and tuition payments.
Cross-train employees within and among departments. Solve problem of retirement of key employees and succession planning by cross-training.
Eliminate accrued vacation time upon retirement.
Peg pension benefits to base pay only.
Require employees to pay at least 9.5% of their salary into the pension system. State Patrol officers now pay 17%.
Raise retirement age to 60. Employees who retire earlier would earn drastically lower pension payments.
Require that retirees continue to pay more for their health care premiums.

BUDGETING BY CATEGORY:
Master Plan:
Consider fundamental changes to county government structure, including overcoming state statutory obstacles.
Accelerate interlocal agreements for county government services. Promote functional consolidation with other political subdivisions for reduced costs.
Merger or consolidation of city & county offices, like city prosecutor and county attorney, crime labs, public properties Consider interlocal agreements for these services.
Prioritize services within departments.
Strengthen internal auditing and agency oversight.
Institute both performance audits overall and desk/time audits in every department.
Make available an annual balance sheet showing assets and debts.
Strategize how to eliminate the NE Commission of Industrial Relations and Tax Equalization Review Commission.

Budget Process:
Concentrate on budget items that are spiraling out of control, e.g., health center and labor contracts including employee pay categories, health insurance, and pensions.
Curtail deficit or added appropriations like the following: $900,000 for health insurance premiums and payroll taxes, $600,000 for the County Fair, and $333,900 for salary adjustments.
Consider hiring for labor negotiations or as a consultant a national law firm specializing in labor relations.
Plan strategic budget cuts for the future.
Decide what services county can cut or end completely, e.g., extension service, law library.
Make a wish list.
Privatization or outsourcing specific services.
Plan immediate budget cuts.
Zero-based budgeting.
County departments that spend only a percentage of their total annual budgets should obtain earn a monetary reward for this incentive, with remainder of the savings returning to the General Fund.

B. DEPARTMENT BUDGETS:
ADULT PROBATION DEPARTMENT. Total budget from local funds would rise by $10,000. Contract services have risen sharply, like a $1,000 contract for water. Because of state mandates, the number of employees has risen from 89 to 103, and additional staff needed next fiscal year. Large costs incurred for new space and moving. Organization membership dues has been eliminated.

NTF Recommendations:
Lobby legislature to remove state mandates on this department and pay for increased incurred costs.
Add more diligence to awarding outside contracts to obtain best pricing.
ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE, including Commissioners, Fees & Contracts, Risk Insurance and Miscellaneous.
The administrative department includes the budget for the Douglas County Board and support staff. Total budget requested is $252,000 less than last fiscal year. County saved $15,000-$20,000 by outsourcing workers compensation work. Obama Care work is consuming additional work hours. Seeks appropriation for public information officer. 13.4% salary increase effective Jan. 1, 2017, from $38,423 to $43,594.

NTF Recommendations:
Take additional bids on insurance policies.
Examine use of interlocal agreements to purchase workers compensation insurance.
No need for a public information officer; staff can be spokespersons.
If intent on hiring one grant specialist, this specialist should replace dept. grant writers.
Repeal recent commissioner pay raise.
Instead of investing county savings into specific areas, lower the tax rate.
End professional service fee for United Way.

ASSESSOR.
All funding for this office come from the General Fund. This office does not generate much revenue, only charges for copying public records. Requests almost a 9% budget increase. Because of state law change, personal property exemption work requires additional staff time. New deadline for filing personal property exemptions is July 20, not October. Revalues all property every 6 years. Normally, 1 appraiser would handle 2,500 properties; her office staff handles 10,000 apiece. She wants additional appraisers; goal is to increase appraisers among her current staff. Purchasing new technology supposedly would require fewer employees, but office has insufficient staff currently. 79 employees. No supplemental appropriation required but $116,868 for salary/benefits adjustments via union contract. Longevity pay has increased. Previous assessor did not hire 7 people as publicized to handle new mandates, though this funding was in his budget. New assessor will hire 6 people and merge land records to save dollars. Good cross-training. Excess revenue in office paid ahead for contracts but cannot be used for paying ahead staff. Has a GIS staff of 4, separate from the GIS department. Will assign valuations to tax-exempt properties and supports eliminating some tax exemptions. Aerial flyovers will streamline assessments by viewing property changes and updates. Some properties hiked 7% by TERC will now stand at up to 106% of market value, outside state guidelines of 92%-100%.

NTF Recommendations:
Consider using private computer program businesses for services if cheaper.
Upgrade dept. software on a regular basis to save long-term costs.
Utilize vehicles from a common vehicle pool.
Merge dept. GIS unit with GIS Dept.
Lobby to change the state law, so that the past assessment schedule applies to real estate values. Because of a change in state law, the assessor must set new values three months earlier than previously.
Lobby Legislature to redefine tax exempt properties, as some currently compete with private commercial activities.
Lobby Legislature to eliminate the TERC and return valuation appeals to county level.

REGISTER OF DEEDS.
Last year, expenditures were lower than previous year, incoming revenues the same. Fees have increased, helping more to fund this department. New budget is under target set by commissioners. New technology has helped cut costs in this department. Personnel costs have increased markedly, because so many employees have attained the highest pay grade. Customers can view documents for free via the Internet, a mode that will increase in use. Alternatively, taxpayers can pay a reasonable fee for each printed document.

NTF Recommendations:
Two assistant deputies supervise only 20 employees, too low a ratio. Increase ratio between supervisors and employees.
Computerizing records should permit a further cut in staff.

BOARD OF EQUALIZATION.
To pay for rate increases for Board of Equalization valuation referees, the cost would rise from $20,000 to $35,000, about an 8%-15% hike in its annual budget. Options are increasing overall pay by 20%, 25%, or 30%, the last about matching what Sarpy and Lancaster Counties pay.

NTF Recommendations:
Solicit widely referees for a 15% pay increase for a guaranteed amount of work, with guarantee to raise it a bit annually for continued work.
Place current valuation challenge information on BOE website before June 1, so that challengers can begin their homework sooner.

CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION.
FY 2016-17 requested budget is $938,241 compared to previous $926,102 budget, a 1% increase. No supplemental appropriation required for the current fiscal year. 46% of expenses appropriated for contracts for employee recruitment and job applications, drug testing, and employee classes. 32 classes, including one to advise employees how to handle emotions at work. Other major expenses include fees for tests, psychological evaluations, and attorneys fees, as civil service is independent and cannot request county attorney assistance. More funds spent on 1,000 hours of Obama Care compliance reporting, compliance with presidential executive orders, long-term disability, sex discrimination complaints, and modified pension plans. Longevity and specialty pay are two reasons for increased costs, rising annually. Continuing to promote wellness program to cut health care costs. Employee numbers the same (11.5). 1.5% salary increases.

NTF Recommendations:
Allow city human relations department to handle employee discrimination complaints.
Eliminate several employee classes.
Contract long-term for more reasonable attorney fees.
CLERK OF THE DISTRICT COURT
The clerk has reduced staff from 60 to 47. When a vacancy occurs, analysis done to see if position needed. Vacancies consolidated into existing positions. New employees hired to fill vacancies at lower pay. Money from general incoming revenues and fees has dropped after increasing in recent years, dropping $66,290. Personnel and non-personnel costs have risen slightly. Showing good fiscal control, expenses will rise by 3%. The dept. requires no supplemental appropriation, and its upcoming budget is under commissioner target. Spending on supplies delayed until end of fiscal year to ascertain that enough funds available to buy them.

NTF Recommendations:
Verify that fees pay for court costs. If not, raise fees.
Solicit long-term contracts for cheaper legal services.

COMMUNITY MENTAL HEALTH CENTER.
Local money given the state, and some not rebated. A 3-yr. plan would enhance possible revenue sources and, with a 5-yr. plan, possibly expand services to other counties. Needed no budget supplements this fiscal year. Wants to maximize revenue, including collecting private insurance. Wants a psych emergency room; a new psych employee would cost $10,000 plus $200,000 from state Region 6. Increasing scheduling to psychiatric outpatient clinic within 48 hrs. instead of 3 weeks. Wants to contract and enhance services with the Corrections Dept. to serve an underserved population of those 19-24. Needs $150,000 for a triage person, and wants to hire 2 triage therapists, funded from the outside. Wants to increase billable services. Number of 88 employees rose by 3 last fiscal year and would rise by 8 FY 2016-17. Expenses would rise by over $1 million, $200,000 more drained from the General Fund. However, total revenues would rise by $500,000. Gained $7.4 million in revenue, with many grants. Insurance payments incoming would rise, Medicaid/Medicare payments remain the same, and private payments drop.

NTF Recommendations:
Internal auditor should monitor and oversee incoming revenue and insurance, as state legislature passed a bill to allow Medicaid to seek additional patient reimbursement. Verifying entitlements of potential clients will save the county money and hopefully pay for fiscal liaison/auditor.
Obtain as much personal payment amount as possible.
Use private company to spray for bedbugs and lice.
County should concentrate on the health center providing only necessary core services instead of competing with services from private hospitals. County should eliminate services duplicative of private services in community.
Lobby the state legislature to rebate funds.

CORRECTIONS DEPARTMENT.
Budget request 7.6% higher. In FY 2016, department expenditures rose only .22%, revenues not increasing. Projected revenue is $14,827,090. Revenues from the U.S. Marshal’s office and sobriety program fees have increased; federal grants have decreased by over 50%. Revenue incoming for immigration service and $15 million from the Sherwood Foundation for 3 years. More convenient for the feds to house an illegal alien in county jail than outstate. Total payroll costs have dropped .19 million. Personnel costs have risen by 10.46%, equipment by 528%, but supply and capital costs have dropped. Supervisor to employee ratio is very low in the reentry, house arrest, and pre-trial release programs. Lost 20 personnel to higher-paid city jobs. More vacation time in union contracts. $34,000 in salary hikes. More prisoners are dangerous and have mental health problems, so department must expand resources for the mentally ill. One staff member needed for each mental case on suicide watch is expensive. More diagnosed with mental illness, and dept. must segregate them. Passage of state law (LB 605) has caused increased inmate population, and they stay longer, especially the mentally ill. More inmates suffering from drug and alcohol withdrawal. More murderers incarcerated, more in protective custody. More female inmates and more of them staying longer. Therapeutic initiatives in more housing units besides veterans unit to cut recidivism. Several contracts for welfare-type inmate services. It will expand re-entry into society programs. Veterans Court is proceeding, with planning for a mental health court. New phone system will cost less than $500,000 estimate. Bond issue may include this cost. Outsourced laundry service working well. Savings of over $325,000 because of attrition and hiring new employees at lower rate. Big expense to renovate building and annex and move from a mainframe to new jail management software.

NTF Recommendations:
Allow DOT Com to handle IT systems.
Purchase equipment cheaper by implementing interlocal agreements.
Overtime represents 4% of personnel expenditures but should total a smaller percentage of the personnel budget. Institute 10- hour shifts or use part-time employees and better control this expense by stricter union contracts.
Increase supervisor to employee ratios.
Lobby the legislature to require the state to fund adjudication and prosecution costs for those accused of committing a state crime. Current legislature will not budge and still owes county $20 million.
Press the state government to pay for agreed to services.
Lobby the legislature to allow counties to require inmates to pay for a portion of their incarceration and medical costs.
Change state law, so that county jail inmates can work on public projects like maintaining bike trails, picking up trash along the public right of way, and working at the Humane Society.
Press congressional delegation to require federal government to pay all costs for incarcerating illegal aliens and retrieve them immediately.
End or decrease welfare-type services for inmates, e.g., inmate education and re-active behavior, unless county can statistically prove that such programs curtail recidivism.
Verify that inmates actually mentally ill.
Privatize additional services.

COUNTY ATTORNEY.
Budget request up 2.6%. Adding 1 new position but trying to leave vacant positions vacant. This dept. receives many grants to pay for expenses, but fewer federal grants. Grants fund 3 lawyers for drunk driver cases. Another grant for the child victim unit and others, full or partial, for domestic violence cases and victim-witness program. Running a $213,000 deficit. Witness fees and extradition travel costs are spiraling. Will not extradite for lesser crimes because of the expense. Expert witness fees are higher, and this office must obtain testimonies from only a small pool of experts. Autopsy costs are higher, and more of them. The coroner needs 1 additional assistant because of so many homicides. More murders in county raise costs; this office has no control over volume. County attorney must handle all incoming cases. Filing fees and court costs have risen, but the legislature refuses to lower filing fees, because this money funds judge retirements. More expense for courtroom presentations, which are valuable. No need for a city attorney, as county attorney could handle all prosecutions, and city expenses would drop. Projected dept. revenue is $1,230,000.

NTF Recommendations:
Operating expenses trending up, reflecting increased juvenile justice expenses. Lobby the legislature to alter laws, so that fewer children unnecessarily taken from their homes for alleged abuse, neglect, and truancy, to cut juvenile costs.
Lobby legislature to lower or eliminate filing fees.
Lobby to make parents more financially responsible for processing their criminal children through the judicial process.
Lobby legislature to make criminals financially responsible for their processing, if they have accessible funds.
Hire junkyard dog collection agencies to retrieve owed fines, restitution, etc.
Consolidate city and county attorney offices.
Discontinue hiring interns.
Take testimony from expert witnesses long-distance.

COUNTY CLERK.
23 employees. Salary expenses rose by about $3,000. Non-salary expenses would drop by about $3,000. No supplemental appropriation required. $1.7 million budget slightly less than last fiscal year. Brought in $156,100 in revenue from fees. Supply costs increased greatly. Improved travel expense and direct pay forms. Public access to financial reports is comprehensive. Revising dept. website; dashboard for taxpayers to find information. Other county departments work with this department for Oracle training. New Oracle databases; Oracle now used for most county dept. finances. Will automate payroll reporting to eliminate paper reports. Will implement automated financial closing process.

NTF Recommendations:
Enter interlocal agreements to purchase supplies and equipment.
Eliminate membership dues in professional organizations.
Every county department should utilize the same computer system, e.g., Oracle, to communicate better.

COUNTY COURT. Higher costs for court- appointed attorney fees was one cause for the 12% hike in expenses.

COUNTY ENGINEER.
The FY 2015-16 budget totaled $219,419; the FY 2016-17 request is $221,838 in General Funds, a 1% increase, mostly because of state and federal matching funds. 25% additional projects planned, particularly bridges. 33% lower cost on equipment purchases. Spent $575,000 less on fuel because of lower prices. Saved $3 million in contracts. One less employee in dept. The Roads department utilizes over $2 million in General Fund revenue, because outside revenue is insufficient.

NTF Recommendations:
Auction all surplus parts and equipment.
Lease instead of purchasing equipment.
Costs for asphalt, pavement markings, and road paint have increased, so expand inter-local agreements with adjacent government subdivisions and the state.
Professional fees are projected to increase, another reason to outsource some services.
Begin outsourcing all routine road maintenance, paving, and construction projects possible.
Flatten the organization structure. As foremen retire or leave the department, reduce their numbers.
Purchase GNC-powered vehicles if feasible.
Use jail inmate labor.

COUNTY TREASURER.
102 employees + 1 more position for Oracle staffer. The FY 2015-16 budget of $5,871,087 was under commissioners target by $64,000. No supplemental appropriation needed. FY 2016-17 budget is $6,366,228, an increase of $495,141, or 2.4%. $117,000 above budget guidelines because of step pay increases and raises. Non-personnel budget has 0% increase. Higher costs because of converting computers to Oracle system and its consultants. Projected revenue is $12-$13.7 million. 2% commission from SIDs provided $644,000 in additional revenue, but half of this money used to mail license plates. $67,000 in unspent funds returned to county. Bidding out services for payments processing. Centralization of electronic payments, offering taxpayers the least expensive options for payments. Investment revenue has doubled or tripled. A projection of over $1 million increase in yearly investments because of expanded investment opportunities. Tax certificate sales will continue to grow, now conducted online worldwide.

NTF Recommendations:
Organizing an investment system to maximize revenue and consolidating vendors for cheaper services are procedures that all depts. should utilize. This dept. serves as a good fiscal model for other depts.
Integrate the Dealer Customer Service operations into the Branch operations.
The percentage of transactions processed online continues to increase; accordingly, the Treasurer should continue to reduce his staff.
Eliminate county cars used by the Treasurer’s office and pay mileage to employees at the IRS prescribed rate. Alternatively, put a few cars into a “pool” inventory for approved county business.
Curtail travel to meetings, training, workshops, etc.
End memberships with dues in government organizations and continuing education obligations.
End newspaper subscriptions.
Lobby state government for permission to keep more money as reimbursement for collecting vehicle and other taxes.
Lobby to renew licenses plates every 7-10 years to reduce mailing costs and price of plates.

DISTRICT COURT.
FY 2017 budget would increase because of renovations and increased attorney fees. Attorney fees have required supplemental budget increases in years past as costs continue to increase. $524,650 budget 19% higher than last fiscal year. Expenses would rise by 4%, but expected revenues from grants and fees would rise sharply. Incoming revenues projected at $1 million+. 12 judges, administrator, and all 80 staff paid by state. Same number of employees, 45. Law library salaries have doubled.

NTF Recommendations: 
Curtail travel costs.
Bid and contract out catered jury lunch costs and other District Court food service requirements.
Bid wider on professional fees.
Use a competitive bid process to solicit additional court-appointed private attorneys to ensure caseloads are managed at lower overall cost. Implement an attorney rotation wheel in the same manner as suggested for Juvenile Court.
Offer unpaid internships to law students to reduce legal research costs. 
Lobby the Legislature to significantly reduce or eliminate court-filing fees paid to the state for criminal charges.
Require those convicted of crimes to pay a larger portion of court costs. 
The law library is redundant, as Creighton Law Library and UNO Criss Library provide either exactly the same services or more than those provided by the Douglas County Law Library. Creighton offers Westlaw Patron, Lexis/Nexus, and Gale Legal Forms access, and Criss offers Westlaw Patron. The law library does not provide for public use of Lexis/Nexus.
Fees charged the public for photocopies and prepared documents are astronomically higher than those charged at other local law libraries.

DOT.COMM.
Dept. has 91 employees. County pays a little over 50% of costs; city and county split funding 50-50 for capital budget, with FY 2017 county request between $2-$4 million. No supplemental appropriation requested. FY 2017 budget within guidelines set. $13.1 million FY 2017 budget, up from $12.6 million, a 3.31% increase. Purchased services costs rose 6.2% for professional fees. Staffing increases accounted for higher costs, 6-18%. Revenues increased only .2%. 96% achievement in meeting service level agreements. Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) keep health care costs flat instead of a 12-16% annual increase. Digitizing dept. documents, backed up on microfilm, because of state requirement. Replaced older printers with cost-effective models. Providing cheaper VOIP phones to city and county departments at $324,000 initial cost, so employees less landline phone dependent. Fewer phone lines required, with phone numbers vacated. Using electronic signatures saves hundreds of hours by eliminating passing around paper.

NTF Recommendations:
Widen bidding for contracted professional services to save money.
Proper and timely cost assignment of data processing expense to each county department to better allocate time and expense.
Cease translating information into foreign languages.
Actively market services to adjacent government subdivisions.
If outside entities that use county contracts through DOT Comm do not pay their bills, refuse them service.
Eliminate high employee turnover to save on training costs.

ELECTION COMMISSIONER.
FY 2016-17 budget will rise because of 2016 and 2017 election costs but may accrue more revenues than anticipated. Additional employee expenses, because minimum wage required for election day workers working 14 hours but believes he can decrease these expenses. 13 employees same as last year. Full-time staff has dropped from 18 to 13 in 7 years. Employees cross-trained. Top 2 officials work weekends to save on overtime pay. Saved $9,000 in the 2016 primary election through efficiencies. Saved $66,000 in postage with new mail-in early voting ballots in smaller envelopes and new printing technique for ballots. Additional drop boxes provided for these ballots. This department has saved significant taxpayer dollars by printing its own ballots and reducing polling places. Employing fewer poll workers has saved county residents almost $270,000 for election day-related expenses. Would like to utilize on-line videos to avoid paying employees for training election day workers and voters. Would like a new office because of roof leaks and poor parking facilities. An office on a bus route would be most convenient for people who do not drive. Need a new ballot counter costing $100,000. Most services are mandated by state law.

NTF Recommendations:
Votes were cast by mail in the recent primary, a trend likely to increase. Accordingly, there should be a continuing reduction in Election Commission employees.
Utilizing all-mail election process would save 25%-30% of costs and require less election preparation time.
DOT Comm expenses have skyrocketed, so consider using outside service.
Print more ballots with candidate names in the same sequence to save printing costs.
Likewise save printing costs by not splitting precincts among government subdivisions.
Consider moving this office to West Maple Campus for better parking facilities.

ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES/ LANDFILL.
21 employees. This department is essentially self-supporting. No General Fund money used. Tipping fees from the landfill cover the expenses of four divisions: Planning and Permits / Inspections, Parks and Trails Landfill, and Noxious Weed Control. Landfill revenue and expense can vary greatly with volume. Landfill accrues the most revenue of any department. Revenue rising from permits; expenses down slightly. Actively seeking grant funding and obtaining more. Implementing online building permit application and processing to save time and money. Studying more sustainable solid waste management recycling. The city is studying composting at landfill. Could tradeoff with the city on snow removal or contract snow removal with the city. Using drones for difficult inspections that increases efficiency, minimizes risk to inspectors, and identifies illegal discharges.

NTF Recommendations:
Merge department services with the city permits and inspection division.
Consolidate waste management with city.
Unnecessary to add local food production to department plan.
Determine effectiveness of Millard Schools outreach program and usage of more social media to publicize department activities and events.
Use jail inmates instead of temporary/seasonal employees for outside work.
Recycle tires for profit.

EXTENSION SERVICE.
FY 2016-17 budget would rise by 1%, with 1 less employee.

NTF Recommendations:
This agency serves useful but not necessary services, like community gardens, garden centers in schools and daycares, teaching school classes, bed bug information, multilingual programs, career success, healthy lifestyles for kids, alcohol awareness, and nutrition education.
Supplementing the missions of other bureaucracies means duplication of services and efforts. Eliminate this non- mandated service, funded by property taxes.
Other agencies can help farmers set up acreages and care for their livestock and serve others currently assisted by various extension activities.
Support for Sudanese immigrant families should be the responsibility of the individual church denominations that helped these people emigrate here.

FAIR BOARD.
$55,000 more requested for the rodeo from the $200,000 provided from Tourism Dept. funds. FY 2016-17 expenditures would equal the total $255,000 in revenue. Seeks to be self-sufficient. Requested General Fund to pay for 1 full-time employee. Anticipates obtaining additional private sponsors. Prides itself as the only urban county fair in NE and only HS scholarship rodeo.

NTF Recommendations:
Operate this board with private sponsors only.
Merge this fair with the Sarpy County Fair to save money and offer a more rural flavor.

GENERAL ASSISTANCE.
FY 2016-17 budget is almost $300,000 lower. Fewer clients because of improved economy. Lower revenue because of fewer services rendered and because of faster referrals out. It is difficult for GA to determine how many people will apply for aid, as 30% of clients fail appointments. Using electronic applications. Rent money and medical care are top 2 services provided. Payments given for vehicle repairs. 100% dependent upon property tax revenues. 3 fewer employees. Not filling vacant positions. Longevity pay and insurance costs have risen. Clerical salaries appear very high compared to private industry.

NTF Recommendations:
Refuse service for persistent no-show clients.
End job training and job fairs, as other agencies provide these services.
Clients can take their vehicles to the Omaha Public Schools shop for free repairs.
Dept. used our recommendation to utilize E-applications to save dollars.

GIS DEPARTMENT.
FY 2016-17 expenditures would rise by about $4,000, a 1.17% hike, but revenues cover it all. The General Fund request is a little less than $10,000 more. Non-payroll expenditures dropped because of adding new software instead of outsourcing. Assisted county with process involving tax liens of over 50 properties that netted over $10,000 in back and current taxes and aided in sale of those properties. Cost for printing supplies rose sharply. Although this dept. spent 82.2% of its funding at 77.3% year to date, no supplemental appropriation anticipated. The number of employees remains the same.

NTF Recommendations:
Begin interlocal agreements with other taxing authorities to order printing supplies in bulk.

HEALTH CENTER.
Projected revenue is $32,505,821, a bit more than last year. Expenses would increase by $500,000. Largest cost for the county and is labor intensive. Benefits are 36% of salaries. 132 long term care patients, with 90% occupancy in long-term care. Registered nurses have 12 hr. shifts. $292,000 for temporary employees for next fiscal year, $543,000 spent in FY 2015-16. New Internet phone system will make old pbx system obsolete. Completion of computerized health records etc. will improve reporting capabilities, billing and collection times, and reimbursement. Most referrals come from UNMC. Could share utilities with VA building. Higher costs, 13% higher request, because of county match for Region 6 monetary infusion. All health care services at the health center are non- mandated.

NTF Recommendations:
Need to section out payroll and other expenses like in past years.
Property taxes must still fund $11.6 million 3 year average deficit, evidencing need to cut costs and continue HMA suggestions.
Added revenue projects compete with private companies and facilities and would add to staff and equipment.
Place higher priority on HMA recommendations that reduce expenses. Adding prospective services for outpatient therapy, community pharmacy services, and hospice, dialysis, and infusion services compete with the private sector.
End non-mandated long-term care services funded by property taxes.
Disengage matching funds requirement for Region 6 money.
Holding health center reductions to a minimum while trying to boost revenues risks revenues not materializing. (We doubt that dept. managers have the skills to implement major HMA-suggested changes).
Identify support services costs with specific departments, where applicable.
Establish benchmark dates for completion of health center reforms, review their progress, and utilize Gant Charts in this process.
Involve local, private sector advisors in addition to Health Center administrators and employees in this process.
Set a milestone date for a comprehensive review and reconsideration of privatization regarding the HMA recommendations for the DCHC and CMHC.
Set goals for financial performance in each department and the overall facility.

HEALTH DEPT.
Three fewer employees budgeted for next fiscal year funded from General Fund, but 3 additional employees in 120 total. General Fund budget increase is $66,187, 1.5% increase for salaries and benefits, almost flat. More revenue from fees, $2 million more in grants, boosting total revenues. The best department at gaining grants. Cost for equipment and supplies flat. No need for a supplemental appropriation current fiscal year. This budget is $2,059 under goal. Guidelines met are above board requests. Few property taxes fund reducing the STD rate; a $250,000 Sherwood grant funds it plus $300,000 in other grants. Last minute county injection of $227,897. Would like more stable funding. Department would close its water laboratory because of declining revenues; customers could easily go elsewhere, with annual loss in revenue less than $20,000. Using new technology to save money, like the Chexout system to determine STD test results, lessening paperwork, and the Digital health system that facilitates faster inspections. Determinants of most expense to taxpayers: Department director states that chlamidia rates are the highest yet in Douglas County, 3,507 cases in 2015, mostly among blacks. Clinics filled with teens coming to get tested for STDs. Increase highest among those 20-24 years old. Homosexuals constitute the highest set of those infected with syphilis. A 50% increase in testing and treatment, but no metrics to gauge effects. Social media sends wrong messages and encourages promiscuity, so this dept. counters it.

NTF Recommendations:
The Health Department and other departments have appropriations remaining at the end of the fiscal year, suggesting zero-based budgeting.
Double late fees charged restaurants and bars that fail to pay for annual permit fees on time.
Department fees should cover costs and time involved and indexed for inflation.
Obtain legislative statutory authority if necessary to increase fees.
Charge county entities full price for services rendered and require them to account for these costs in their own respective budgets.
Obtain IT services from private sector, as Dot. Comm costs appear too expensive.
End other than English language and cultural services.
Use metrics to gauge success of treatment options.

JUVENILE ASSESSMENT CENTER.
FY 2016-17 budget increases only 1%. Grant funding currently pays about 65% of department budget. 8 of 13 employees grant-funded. Number of employees the same. Grant monies go directly to service providers. County could levy an administrative fee on grants distributed. No current measurement mechanism about where grant $$ would do the most good. Dept. uses county grant writer and a dept. grant writer. State and federal grant money is decreasing, and the department will expect the county to replace this revenue after grants lapse. Since dept. inception in 2003, funds have come from state welfare dept., state crime commission, and county attorney budget. Goal is to reach kids following citations for needs assessment and diversion from court. No formal tracking to evaluate program impacts.

NTF Recommendations:
Offer services only in the English language. Require non-English speakers to hire their own interpreters.
Refer illegal aliens to federal immigration service.
Send No Show candidates immediately back to court system.
Accelerate grant search.
Because grant funding is decreasing, do not expand programs.
Charge administrative fee on grants distributed to contractors.
Analyze where grant distributions are cutting juvenile delinquency the most.
Institute tracking mechanism to note what percentage of kids successfully complete programs and programs provided by community organizations.

JUVENILE COLLECTIVE.
A new county department. No request for supplemental appropriation in current fiscal year. FY 2016-17 budget would increase by about $140,000, a 46% hike. County contributes 20% of budget from public and private grants. Other funds come from grant monies and legislative appropriations. Requesting 1 additional employee.

NTF Recommendations:
Federal and state grants are decreasing, so lobby legislature to fund existing or future services.
90% success rate in diversion program should continue.
Attach this entity to the Juvenile Assessment Center Dept.

JUVENILE COURT.
Lower expenses of almost $1 million for FY 2016-17. Revenues rising from $2500 to $3000. Supplemental appropriation required for payroll. The Juvenile Court has requested supplemental budget increases for 5 years because of exponential increases in attorney fees and out of home placement costs. Payments for individual appointment attorneys in Juvenile Court have increased 180% in ten years. The stated mission of Juvenile Court: “Assist families and children in rebuilding their lives,” yet Nebraska removes children at a rate 2nd highest in the country.  Douglas County represents approximately half of all statewide Juvenile Court filings.

NTF Recommendations:
Conduct a cost / benefit analysis to determine if the increase in spending has benefited families and children in the county and determine why Nebraska (Douglas County specifically) removes children at such a high rate.
Conduct a performance audit to determine the actual cost spent by taxpayers on out of home care for Douglas County children.  The Juvenile Court budget reflects only a portion of these costs, as some cost is currently borne by the Office of Juvenile Services.  Evaluate benefits received from program expenditures.
Lobby the Unicameral to limit out of home placements to facilities located within the state.
Evaluate truancy filings (determine the number of filings attributable to absences and illness) and identify costs associated with the frivolous filings. 
Lobby the Legislature to limit prosecutorial and judicial discretion regarding “truancy” and modify state law to clarify the schools responsibility in dealing with truancy.
Institute an attorney assignment wheel for attorneys court appointed to juvenile cases.  This device was recommended by the National Center for State Courts during their analysis of Douglas County, conducted in November, 2011.  Usage of an assignment wheel would balance the need for judicial discretion with opportunities to limit bias in appointments.  Such a tool would also limit the potential for financial collusion between judges and attorneys.
Lobby the Legislature to revise state statute and eliminate the requirement that “attorney “guardians ad litem be appointed to juveniles in Juvenile Court. Allow the court to appoint lay guardians ad litem when needed.
Pay others like interns less for guardians ad litem non-legal work.

911 DEPARTMENT.
Budget rose by 5% in FY 2016. FY 2016-17 budget higher than board guidelines, 2.1% higher than last fiscal year. County 15% responsibility for FY 2017 budget is $689,075. 71 employees, the same for 19 years. 5 positions currently frozen. If new radio costs included in bond issue, 5 more would be hired in Apr. 2017. 16 current operators but need 40 to handle calls. Would like to at least double staff, with city hiring a share. $107,000 paid in overtime. $4.2 million payroll. 85% of expenditures reimbursed by City of Omaha. Equipment costs have soared. 900% increase in calls, some increase from merger with city 911. Surcharge on land lines dropping in total because of more people using cell phones. Wants GIS housed there. Adjacent counties use county 911 as alternatives and cooperate on evacuation plans. Center would move into reconstructed 156th & Maple facility. Public education brochures and seminar costs have risen sharply.

NTF Recommendations:
Lease office equipment instead of purchasing.
Lower or eliminate the sharply rising cost for public education brochures.
Lessen the number of seminars attended by employees or send fewer employees.
Solicit interlocal agreements to purchase equipment.
Solicit interlocal regionalization agreements with other counties as suggested on page 100 of the 911 feasibility study.
County must decide between a hub and spoke or a combined center model, and which jurisdiction will be in charge.
The county board speedily should proceed to develop a concise plan with objectives, benchmarks, proposed management structure, estimated costs and cost-sharing, and plan for a regional inter-local agreement.
The Public Service Commission lacks the technical knowledge to lead on this issue.
Wait to see what new technology arises, such as NG911, and what the legislature wants to accomplish with 911 revisions.

PUBLIC DEFENDER.

Gained a $225,000 supplement in FY 2015-16. Number of responsibilities is increasing. Additional cases require additional attorneys. The Legislature turned several misdemeanors into felonies, so penalties enhanced, and more time and expense required to try cases. Mental health issues among defendants are exploding, and psychological examiners are expensive. Using more consultants to cross-examine witnesses. Some cases are now more difficult to process, because phone technology to gain evidence is not perfected. Veteran and Drug Courts would help lower caseloads, but the defendants must first plead guilty. One employee must handle specialty court work. Can cut costs only temporarily by hiring part-timers. Must pay for forensic and mental health experts. Difficult to find people to testify at reasonable cost. Must go out of state to find ballistics and fingerprint experts and hope for reasonable expense. One attorney handles illegal aliens and immigrants. Some criminals willing to be deported and are gone sooner by going to immigration court. Grant for attorney to assist immigrants now gone. Pro-bono attorneys could handle civil cases, however, the number of appeals and complaints from clients might dissuade lawyers. Projected revenue is $95,000.

NTF Recommendations:
Decrease number of cell phones used (525 requested in 2014).
Allow memberships in organizations to lapse ($25,000 requested in 2014).
Decrease number of seminars attended by employees and number of employees who attend ($8,000 requested in 2014).
Purchase used and surplus furniture and office equipment.
Curtail professional fees by taking bids.
Work more diligently to find experts to testify at more reasonable costs.
Rely more on county crime lab.
Pressure the immigration service to remove illegal aliens quickly.
Interpreters may be legally required, but not an immigration attorney who would increase personnel costs.
Ask bar association to provide attorneys pro bono.
Verify that clients actually mentally ill.
Do not increase expenditures dependent upon grants, which may end.

PUBLIC PROPERTIES.
FY 2016-17 budget would increase by 187%, with more revenue anticipated by county CFO. Its capital improvement plan focuses on long term items requiring replacement. Using preventive maintenance to save money. Dire need for electrical and mechanical improvements. Seeks to reduce energy usage and upgrade energy efficient equipment, including implementing energy efficient lighting. Square footage has almost doubled for owned facilities since 2003. Payroll costs have risen by 11% in 4 fiscal yrs., personnel costs rising by 4% for FY 2015-16.

NTF Recommendations:
Obtain longer guarantees on capital improvements like roofs.
Develop a long-term plan for catching up with overdue building maintenance items.
Abandon the 1101 Pacific Street building and relocate offices.
Terminate extension service to save on building maintenance.
Consolidate offices at 156th & West Maple Rd. to save money on leases.
Require juvenile offenders to clean their own facilities and handle office cleaning duties.
Outsource maintenance, painters, and carpenters.
Privatize employee pool.
Reduce or renegotiate utility expenses.
Infuse additional funding into this dept. only if similar funding not in proposed bond issue to pay for needed maintenance and renovation.

PURCHASING DEPARTMENT.
General Fund request only slightly more than last fiscal year; revenues slightly up. Revenue covers 13-14% of payroll. Meets targets set by county. Most money spent on payroll. Same number of employees, 11. Salaries have risen from 3.5% to 8%. Personnel costs, especially overtime and benefits, and operating costs have grown, as have expenses listed for purchased services and equipment. It merged with city purchasing department, so employees work on city projects. Uses a centralized purchasing process and educates departments how to purchase. Reviews specifications to not favor one vendor. Increased rate charges for external agencies. Ongoing online training for all departments on material updates by using a purchasing manual. Continues to use a statewide system for possible joint bids/RFP opportunities for outside county. Trying to reduce fleet average cost per mile, because fuel costs are lower, and because new equipment does not require so much maintenance. CNG vehicles cost 3 times as much and do not make up extra cost until 9 years, but vehicles do not last that long in county. Sells old cars at auction. Difficult to find trained employees and tough mechanic union rules. The city infusion does not cover the cost of providing it these services. City reimbursement is only $150,000, but the city did assume county parks maintenance. Expenditures have climbed at a higher rate than incoming revenues. Expenses in this department have increased by 37% since FY 2009. Positive points include implementing updated computerized billing and a new computerized inventory management system in county warehouse for processing goods, continuing to use purchasing coops with other political subdivisions for joint bidding, developing and using online bidding to increase vendor participation in bidding, and changing bid notifications from regular mail to e-mail. Regarding the garage, revenues have dropped considerably, $10,000 from FY 2014-15. Since 2013, the county garage has lowered the average vehicle cost per mile from 62.7c to 39c, a 38% decrease.

NTF Recommendations:
Merge with the city garage.
Purchase only vehicles that will pay for themselves at a better mileage rate.
Clerical salaries high in comparison with private sector, so curtail labor union salaries/benefits.
Increase use of inter-local sources to purchase materials and equipment to reduce costs.
Accept bids to privatize the mailroom, warehouse, and garage to cut employee and other costs funded by property taxes.
Require the city to pay sufficiently to cover dept. purchasing costs on its behalf.

RECORD IMAGING DEPT.
Its FY 2016-17 budget would increase by 15%, it revenues by 27%. Current revenue received from the city has decreased. Wants to add 1 new employee. Seeks to expand services to additional county offices and increase revenue by selling services to additional City of Omaha departments.

NTF Recommendations:
Move premises to 156th & Maple Street to eliminate rent payments.
Peg hiring of new employees to increased revenues gained.

SHERIFF.
From FY 2010 to FY 2016, budget increased about 2% annually. FY 2015-16 budget was $15,689,463. County target for upcoming fiscal year was $15,398,981, but FY 2016-17 General Fund request is $15,795,831. This dept. is $396,850 over the budget target given it, a 2.6% hike. One grant partially offsets the increase. Projected revenue is $2,943,450, slightly more than last fiscal year. Overtime, call in pay, and specialty pay all are rising sharply. Sheriff prioritizes calls to lower overtime costs. Since 2010, personnel costs equal 93.3% of the budget. Sworn officers numbered 133 in FY 2010, 127 in FY 2016 and 2017. Wants an increase of $120,000, $41,667 for salaries. Much of the spending increase caused by asset forfeiture changes. Also, funding of records management and crime lab accreditation. $277,028 previously used from forfeitures to pay for operational costs such as equipment, technology, maintenance, service agreements for computer equipment, and document management. The federal government for a time stopped cooperating with local law enforcement by dividing forfeited money, so the sheriff received nothing. In March, the forfeiture program renewed with the feds, but sheriff gains less money because of legislative rule change. There is still money from seizures to pay for expenses, but not enough to pay for new recruits and needed records management. Areas with double digit population growth in the county are outside Omaha, compared to the negative population growth within this city. 47,180 in 1990; 76,298 in 2016. However, the city continually annexes county residential areas, taking in 26,000 residents in the last 3 yrs. County population now about 71,000. Sheriff declines to decrease numbers of personnel, though patrol areas are shrinking. More cases and more serious cases at the courthouse require more personnel. County crime lab has 15 contracts outside county and does work for the federal government. Anticipated accreditation in the fall. ANAB accreditation will include evidence collectors and analysts. The department implemented $313,348 in cuts.

NTF Recommendations:
Delete recruiting advertising, saving $3,000; other recruiting mechanisms are sufficient.
Hire private security firms for civic center security and courthouse entrance security.
Outsource civilian jobs.
Alter shift arrangements to reduce overtime and call in pay.
Freeze and leave vacant positions.
Require uniformed officers to pay a portion of their uniform costs.
Auction all seized assets.
The crime lab has increased outside revenue over the last few years. The department should continue to actively market theses services to other jurisdictions.
Require local school districts to pay entire salary and benefits for school resource officers (deputies).
Host SWAT team training sessions.
Split patrol territory with Omaha Police Dept.
Increase fines.
Lobby congress and legislature to change federal law, so that dept. can use confiscated money and property for additional expenditures and prohibit feds from taking back confiscated monies.

VETERANS AFFAIRS.
Total FY 2016-17 budget rising by only 1.5%. Between FY 2014 and FY 2016, expenditures rose by 7%. No supplemental appropriation needed. The department has 6 employees, 3 of which serve as assistance service officers. Because of training, employees no longer must travel to trainings that sometimes lasted a week. Fringe benefits and other operating expenses have increased drastically over very few years. An uptick in disability claims and increased building rent ($6,600) have dramatically increased department expenses. Served veterans dropped from 50,000 to 32,000.

NTF Recommendations:
More closely scrutinize validity of disability claims.
Eliminate the requirement of being a wartime veteran for county services, because others honorably discharged.
This department has a small staff. Consider consolidating this office with another county office to cut expenses. Move consolidated office to West Maple Campus to save on costs.
Printing costs have skyrocketed; closely monitor cost and reduce.
End memberships in several professional organizations.

YOUTH CENTER.
General Fund funding increased less than $2,000, but funding from education sources increased by over $81,000. Projected revenue totals $5,025,000. Dept. uses zero-based budgeting but does not set budget to match target budget set by commissioners. Same number of personnel, 132. Almost 70% of employees in this department are at the highest pay grade. Budget for temporary employees eliminated, saving $124,800. Many staff paid by grant monies. 95% of staff unionized. Thousands spent on longevity pay, holiday pay, and overtime. Saving money through UNMC contracts, because UNMC reimbursed by federal and state for Medicaid services. Drugs and pharmacy costs lower because of contract with UNMC. Although reimbursements from other governments are decreasing, the HOME program is accepting increased number of juveniles into this program, which saved about $2,088,243 in 2014. Savings will increase as probation intake can place youths directly into the program at Intake rather than waiting for detention hearings. Truancy programs in OPS schools will reduce future center admissions. Staff secure unit saves county about $50,000 per month instead of contracting out this service. Book fairs save county thousands on books. Use of CNG vehicles saves money. United Way program allows youth offenders to work off their sentences. Many expenses are population-driven.

NTF Recommendations:
Video /Skype court appearances save time and money, particularly for detention hearings. Expanding this technique could significantly reduce detainee stays at the youth center.
The department should not increase staff and should prepare to reduce headcount through attrition and retirements.
Recognizing the volume of incarceration is decreasing, department costs for laundry, meals, and food items indicates good cost control but consider more competitive privatization nonetheless.
Expand private sector donations for furniture, food, clothing, office and cleaning supplies, etc.
Costs for professional psychological services dropped by $48,000 because of a new company contract. These cost reductions point out the benefit of competitive bidding.
Find out how stable are grants and what dept. must do to continue applying for them.
Explore more ways for incarcerated juveniles to pay for their incarceration.

CONCLUSION:
Several county departments are doing a very conscientious job of cutting expenses and/or increasing their revenues.
Though expenses are rising uncontrolled because of state and federal mandates, the county can lobby to attempt to decrease or eliminate these mandates.

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