County leaders weighing performance goals for dept. heads, long-range budget planning

QUEENSBURY - Athletes, salespeople and CEOs are paid based on their performance, and department chiefs in Warren County may also be, if a performance-based pay proposal is enacted.

Warren County Budget Officer Kevin Geraghty suggested to county budget committee members Feb. 11 that they consider the adoption of a tiered pay-raise system for department heads which would award pay raises based on meeting performance goals.

Geraghty proposed pay raises based on accomplishing objectives like spending less money than budgeted or reducing employee overtime.

"The methods of assessment would be measurable in this system," Geraghty said. "I view this as an incentive system that will require the department heads to run the county more successfully."

While performance-based pay in government is revolutionary, Geraghty proposed veering from tradition in a second way.

Geraghty has been exploring a three-year budgetary forecasting process that would produce a prepared budget several years before it is to be enacted.

"We can't keep writing budgets line-item by line-item," Geraghty said Wednesday. "We would estimate budgetary increases based on an overall percentage rate and then only have to tweak it later on."

Proponents of the three-year forecasting system argued this week that the budgetary process has become far too laborious and inefficient, and has produced unnecessary financial crises.

This past month, Warren County officials were stunned when county Treasurer Frank O'Keefe told them the county had an urgent cash shortfall, and the board of supervisors authorized borrowing up to $4.5 million to cover unanticipated shortfalls this year.

O'Keefe had said that his office hadn't been aware of the necessary payments for expenses of the ongoing Hague sewer project. Republican Supervisors have blasted O'Keefe, a Democrat, for not anticipating cash needs, and for giving county officials widely varying figures for cash balances and reserves.

County supervisors said this week that long-range financial planning might help avoid such problems.

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