Thursday, March 13, 2014

Brown Calls Workforce County's Most Important Asset

John Brown surprised union workers at meeting
Northampton County Executive John Brown delivered his first "State of the County" address yesterday before an audience of about 150 business leaders at Northampton Community College's Gates Center. He portrayed himself as a friend of the county workforce, calling them "the most important asset we have." He noted that he had even walked in on a union meeting the preceding night. His goal is to deliver County services in a "cost effective way," without sacrificing services. But he also painted a gloomy picture of County finances, with no easy answers.

"For every dollar taxed, we're spending three on people," he said, reducing the problem to its simplest terms. Brown noted that revenues have been stagnant over the past eight years, only growing an average of $905,000 per year. Over that same time, personnel costs have increased an average of $3 million per year.

To make matters worse, the County contribution to its retirement fund has grown from $6.8 million in 2008, to $18 million last year.

"Our cash demands have outstripped our ability to raise revenue," he observed.

In previous years, the County has dipped into its reserve fund to finance deficit spending. But the cupboard is bare. Brown believes the County will spend as much as $18 million this year, leaving it with just $12 million left for the following year.

One of the biggest drains on that budget is Gracedale, the County-owned nursing home. Even with a privatized administration and active marketing that has increased census dramatically, it will still cost the County $5.5 million this year.

At this point in his tenure, he's looking for cash leaks. He noted that when he assumed office, a stack full of job requests were on his desk. He's put a hold on them and is bringing department heads in to justify the need. In one office, he's determined that the new position would be unnecessary if the 30% turnover is stopped.

As a longer term solution, he will seek cost-saving ideas and help from the workforce. "The key to doing this is our employees," he said. After his presentation, he acknowledged this proposal is similar to the "Continuous Improvement" program advanced by his opponent, John Callahan.

In addition, he emphasized the importance of working regionally, stating he has contacted the Mayors of Bethlehem and Easton, as well as Lehigh County Exec Tom Muller,  to look for areas in which economies can be achieved.

He also cited three Stoffa administration projects as a "silver lining" for the County.

First, the Chrin TIF, located at the northern tier of Palmer Township, will produce 5,000 jobs while at the same time making money available for farmland preservation.

Second, thanks to a centralized human services building in Bethlehem Township, the County has been able to shed the Wolf and Bechtel buildings. "The employees love it there," he remarked after his speech. "So do the clients."

Third, Brown cited the bridge bond, which will enable to repair to 18 bridges over the next three years.

In a brief meeting with reporters after his speech, Brown promised biweekly meetings with the press. He agreed that the Home Rule Charter and Administrative Code need a review. He also acknowledged that he has hired Bangor Borough Council President Cathy Allen as a Deputy Director of Administration. Though Allen has no education beyond high school, Brown said she is well-versed in all lines of insurance and he will use her for risk management.

In addition to his entire cabinet, Brown's speech was attended by Lehigh County Executive Tom Muller, Judge Craig Dally and County Council member Glenn Geissinger. Other members of Council were unable to attend as a result of conflicts.

"It's not how many speeches I give," Brown told his audience, "but how the county workforce reacts with the public that matters."

Brown's speech was hosted by the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

"So do the clients."\

Since it just opened and few clients ever go into a Human Services Building, this Harp fed line is pure bullshit

Good Job Brownie

Anonymous said...

Brown did inherit a real crap situation. The last Admisntration deficit spent all of the surplus and left the cupboards bare for Mr. Brown.

Mr. Brown should have an across the board hiring freeze. Reducing the cost of personnel will reduce his most expensive line item.

Anonymous said...

Department heads beware. JB will align himself with the workers and let them express their concerns and listen to them. This is not an empty promise on his part. He will not balance the budget on the backs of the real workers of the county. Freeze..maybe. Lay offs..no. Time to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Anonymous said...

As I said yesterday:
The voters of Northampton County have provided the residents of Northampton County, an individual who has no real understanding of how government works.

Mr Brown is simply not the leader the voters had hoped he was!

And to deflect his incompetence, he hires a Deputy Administrator yet touts a hiring freeze?

Anonymous said...

He's so much better than Callahan and he inherited a huge mess. He seems to have all the right enemies as he tries to change a very wasteful and inefficient culture.

Anonymous said...

He is stumbling around in the dark. Atleast give him a flashlight!

Anonymous said...

One of the biggest drains on that budget is Gracedale

Meanwhile another PA county has decided to sell.

http://www.ldnews.com/local/ci_25288094/lebanon-county-commissioners-decide-sell-cedar-haven

Anonymous said...

No easy way out of the inherited mess. He did not create it but he will be expected to fix it. Entrenched ideas and ways of doing the business of service to the residents of the county call for novel ideas and strategies. Some people will agree..others not so much. Rocky start but he deserves a shot at solving the problems..duly elected.

Anonymous said...

JB's Gracedale initiatives must be successful as that issue more than any won him the election. The older voters saw that issue as paramount and they want it to survive and be there when they may need it the most.

Anonymous said...

Brown was elected due to the arrogance / hated of Callahan, end of story!

Anonymous said...

hatred

Anonymous said...

Gracedale would and will make any exec look bad. It's a huge, bleeding albatross. While Brown's inherited mess is enormous, Stoffa can't be blamed for Gracedale, as he tried to do the right thing for taxpayers and was stopped in an off-off year primary by special interests who voted for their budget busting jobs.

Anonymous said...

Employees are our most important asset so I will be looking for way to fuck them over to save money and not raise taxes.

Anonymous said...

We need to stop electing Republicans. All they do is screw up the economy.

Anonymous said...

seriously ????? but he wanted to hire someone for 750 thousand for less than full time work...but is willing to cripple the work force further ? he doesn't make any sense whatsoever!

Anonymous said...

Well we wanted him to be transparent and there we have it. He is certainly working on ways to plug the holes and in doing so will make the few unhappy.

He is going to do things differently and the same people who hated Stoffa will hate him. Think he cares what they think. Nor should he. You can't waste time on the haters...the haters are gonna hate.

So he will look to work through his ideas and in the end we, except the haters, will remember how he ends up, not the mistakes he made in along the way.

It's apparent that we are spending money that we do not have. This has to stop...if it means a few jobs then so be it. If they are worth their salt they will find work. Or milk unemployment....but the masses need the relief not a tax increase.....it's one or the other. ..

Anonymous said...

this isn't about being a hater... john brown shot out of the gate wanting to spend 750 thousand then turns around and declares we can't hire personell ? give me a break !furthermore , he isn't doing anthing new here ...all the new county ex's do the same thing , only to discover it takes PEOPLE to the jobs before them.. so when any department loses someone it makes everyone 's job more difficult and yes less efficient ...as far as I can tell he doesn't have a clue what he's doing ...time will tell!

Anonymous said...

I miss ron angle ...he was and always will be transparent ! agree or disagree with him you always know what he's thinking..he doesn't need t pay someone to speak for him ! come on back ron!

Bernie O'Hare said...

I will say I was impressed by his reaching out to the workforce. That is unusual and is a good sign. But the notion that the Chrin TIF or Bethlehem CRIZ are going to help, in the short term, is nonsense. The Chrin TIF will not generate any real new tax revenue for a good 18 years. That's not going to plug a deficit next year. WHat will help is not throwing $84k fot an unprofessional service. It is very dangerous to have the public pay for someone to make an elected official look good.

Anonymous said...

@8:59 -- Must be his "Spin" media consultant attempting to justify his stupidity...

Anonymous said...

"Stoffa can't be blamed for Gracedale"

Yes he can. His ham handed way of dealing with it and his deal with the devil Ron Angle made Gracedale look even more the victim of some nefarious plot. People should study their actions as the best way "not" to try and pitch an idea.

From Union Thugs to imaginary 30% tax increase threats and more.

Stoffa and Angle were actually the defenders of Gracedale's best friends by their own goofy and over the top actions.

a tea party footsoldier

Anonymous said...

Right on schedule, the selfish, slothful goons waddle up and answer their goon whistle. "Stoffa" is their "Niagara Falls."

Anonymous said...

It's not a this or that solution and it will take a couple of years to apply the brakes and slowly turn the county around. Miracles only happen in the Bible. This is real life. JB does not have a magic wand but he will do some heavy lifting if given the chance by his co-workers. Teamwork is crucial to any worthwhile goal.

Anonymous said...

John Brown won the election because he had no record and made promises that he cant keep. including a mailer that said he "could be the only one trusted to cut taxes". seems to be singing a new tune now. In addition to employee cost increasing he did not mention that 'consulting' costs are up %400 in the first 2 months. hell of a job Brownie!!

Peter J.Cochran said...

Mr.Brown, install an anonymous box, mechanical or electronic media with a verifiable receipt,that employees can send information to you on how to shave the budget. After it get a look , and if it saves us $45,000 lets say or $450,000 that receipt holder should get 10% if it works.Of coarse this would be paid without fanfare.OLD PETER

Anonymous said...

@4:50 -- Brought to you by the "Spin Media Consultant", not too obvious!

Anonymous said...

Peter..Peter..Peter eater,

Some of these comments are just ridiculous. Do some of you people even own a brain?

Anonymous said...

How can Mr. Brown call himself a friend of NC employees when he tried to hire at almost $1M outsiders to do work already hires easily could?

Anonymous said...

It's apparent that we are spending money that we do not have. This has to stop...if it means a few jobs then so be it. If they are worth their salt they will find work. Or milk unemployment....but the masses need the relief not a tax increase.....it's one or the other. ..

We are spending money on things that are necessary to run a society. The approach is not to cut services but to increase revenues. It's time to raise taxes and stop with the tea party madness. OR we just cut the services that YOU personally enjoy. You'll be the first one calling and complaining.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Brwon please cut some of th elongtime high paid "managers" in all the Departments. they are sucking much more money then they are worth. Start im Human Services and work out from there. You mentioned Human Resources in your speech.
Good place to fix. That is a horrible place to employees and they don't really seem to know what the Hell they are doing unless they are pushing their weight around.