Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Fiscal Year 2010: Budget Reductions and Jobs in Borough Government

The quintessential struggle in managing a small municipality is balancing the need to reduce the budget with the need to keep Borough workers employed. Many Borough employees live locally in and around Highlands. These employees are also constituents, and have good insight toward keeping costs down and restructuring government to avoid future increases in the tax levy. It is important that management here in Highlands communicate freely with staff throughout the Borough keeping an open mind to suggestions that may come from Department Heads and individual Borough workers.

As Mayor I have had the distinct privilege of meeting one on one with many Borough employees. We have shared frank discussions regarding budgetary concerns and the need to reduce the size of Borough government. Employees have responded to concerns by identifying areas in each department where costs can be reduced or eliminated. Highlands should be proud of the dedication, professionalism and team work espoused by these members of our Highlands community.

Many employees who have become eligible for retirement are choosing to retire, increasing job security for their colleagues working in the Borough. It is touching to participate in discussions among employees about the priority for maintaining employment for those with young families and elder dependents. As retirements are accomplished, responsibilities are being analyzed and steps taken to hire from within, shifting additional responsibilities to existing staff. In most cases this has been accomplished with willing cooperation by Borough employees who keenly understand the impact of the levy cap and the threat of forced consolidation if we are unable to comply.

Our team in Borough Hall is pursuing technology as an alternative for streamlining Borough functions and improving response to the needs of Borough residents and business owners. Communication via email between Administration and Department heads provides a ready work list in chronological order, which can then be prioritized according to the emergent nature of each request. Increasing the number of forms available via the Borough website permits employees to focus more time on clerical duties and less time engaging in repetitive contact with the public.

Of course, the personal touch is necessary and preferred by some constituents. With small adjustments to the schedule and distribution of duties, morale is preserved and improved within Borough Hall. Employees who are comfortable with their work environment promote a more pleasant experience both for the public servant and for those served. I encourage all taxpayers throughout the Borough of Highlands to compliment your employees while interacting with them. Likewise make suggestions to them about how we can serve you better.

A dedicated workforce is our foundation and our hope for a better future in Highlands. Converting challenges into strengths by responding efficiently and effectively, Highlands can become a well oiled and well tuned instrument. All things are possible when we pull together and work as a team.