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Strategic planning process makes sense

By Staff | Oct 23, 2009

With the challenges of a particularly ugly budget year behind them, many government officials are probably taking a deep breath right now and kicking back a bit.

Not Lee County.

Under the direction of its new county manager, Lee County already has jumped into the planning process for the 2011 budget with the hope of garnering plenty of input for what is expected to be another rough revenue year ahead.

County Manager Karen Hawes has outlined a months-long process to include department-by-department workshop sessions with the Lee County commission, a citizen survey, input gathered through the county’s Web site, and meetings with the county’s various advisory boards.

Her goal?

To identify the core level of service desired by the public and the county’s elected officials.

The process began on Tuesday with the first of eight departmental presentations, continues in November and December with the mailing and collection of a statistically valid citizen survey, and culminates in February with the Board of County Commissioner’s traditional goal setting workshop

This will give staff the information needed to draft and present a budget that, hopefully, will come close to what the commission expects and the public wants, both in terms of services provided and the revenue level needed to fund the package.

“It’s going to be difficult and a challenge, and that’s why we need everyone to participate,” said Ms. Hawes of once again attempting to hammer out a budget in a time of declining revenues.

We agree the revenue picture is unlikely to improve next year, and we commend the county for its proactive approach to the process.

Despite reducing its budgeted workforce by about 15 percent, despite cutting employee entitlement programs such as the buyback of sick time, despite cutting some $187 million in operating and capital costs over the last two years, county officials had to dip into reserves to balance the budget for 2010.

While using rainy day money to weather the current economic storm is appropriate, the county recognizes that it is not a long-term solution.

Good strategic planning is.

We urge those who receive a survey to fill it out quickly and completely. We also suggest property owners countywide watch closely to see if the recommendations that result from this process are incorporated into the budget proposed and passed.

With these things in mind, we look with interest to the end results of the process and we urge buy in along the way.

– Reporter editorial