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

A two-year budgetary system has been in place in Ontario County for five years, officials said.

"This system takes away all of the surprises from the budget creation process," Ontario County Board of Supervisors Chairman Theodore Fafinski said Friday. "Granted, the previously prepared budget requires a few tweaks, but it forces us to plan for upcoming shortfalls and expenditures much earlier than we ever did before."

Fafinski said that the hardest part of the multi-year budgetary system takes place in the first year of the new process.

"Our initial mistake was that we didn't look at the second year hard enough - you have to have the departments prepare their individual budgets a year in advance," Fafinski said. "Since, the method has improved - we are now far more efficient and prepared for large expenditures."

The recently adopted 2009 Ontario County budget required only minor adjustments associated with Medicaid reimbursement rates, Fafinski said. One positive outcome is that impending tax rates are known a year prior to the budget's adoption. Further, the multi-year approach allows a county to be more prepared to deal with large expenditures, like capital projects, he said.

"Everyone must be ready to look into the future," Fafinski said. "The key to efficient government is to never be surprised and now we rarely are - if we see a potential shortfall in 2010 then we prepare in 2009."

Geraghty said this week he was considering the performance goals as a way to promote to greater accountability from the Warren County Department heads.

Last fall, supervisors proposed a tiered pay-raise system for county employees - smaller raises for the higher wage earners - that would have been based on arbitrary earnings figures. This idea lost traction as many supervisors feared drastic political ramifications.

The performance-pay concept highlights the change-of-culture approach recently of the county board of supervisors, which has focused on improving efficiency and reducing operating costs.

"Most of the department heads are getting it," Geraghty said. "If we have department heads not operating the way we want them to, it is up to the board of supervisors to sit them down and work the issues out."

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