Editor’s Note: No debate has so defined politics for San Diego city government as the perpetual question of whether the city raises too little in revenue from its citizens or whether its financial problems are due to waste, lack of productivity and over-generous employee compensation. UCSD graduate student Vladimir Kogan submitted an analysis and voiceofsandiego.org solicited the below response from Councilman Carl DeMaio.
Friday, June 5, 2009 | Some argue that the only way to achieve higher performance from government is to pour more money into government. They assert that the only “problem” right now in government is that working families are not paying enough in taxes, and present the public with only two options: service cuts or tax increases.
Those of us who dig deep into government budgets, or have run any organization in the private or non-profit sectors, know that a third option exists: process transformation. In our view, government should always look for best management practices to provide services “better, faster, and cheaper.”
I’ve reviewed thousands of government budgets — ranging from single programs to complex government agencies. When evaluating a budget for potential efficiencies, the most important measure I use is “cost-per-unit of service” (e.g. cost per mile of road repaired, cost per acre of parkland maintained, cost per permit issued, etc.)
Once you get down to a reliable calculation of full costs, you should ask the most important question in government reform: What drives the per-unit costs?
Answering this question usually leads to three primary cost drivers: inefficient processes, old ways of doing business and old technologies. In some cases, costs result from bloated bureaucracies, i.e. too many people doing the same thing. And then in other cases, costs can be attributed to high labor costs on a per-employee basis.