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City launching Dollar$ and Sense initiative for employees

Thursday, January 15, 2009 by Austin Monitor

City Manager Marc Ott is launching a cost savings program on Friday for city employees called the Dollar$ and Sense initiative. Chief of Staff Anthony Snipes told In Fact Daily the basic idea is to give city employees a chance to help their city save money and avoid other, possibly more painful cost-cutting measures. Rank-and file employees are being encouraged to add their ideas to those of management because, as Snipes says, “A good idea is a good idea no matter where it comes from.”


Assistant City Manager Mike McDonald is in charge of the overall project.


“We want to get as many ideas as we can to make sure we’re operating as efficiently as possible,” he said. “We want them thinking outside the box. Certainly the City Manager had talked about doing this in the future but with the economic challenges that are facing us, we need to do it now.”


McDonald said all the ideas would come in via email, or on paper for employees without access to email, to the corporate office. A budget analyst, the executive assistant of the Assistant City Manager and the chief of staff will be working with the budget and will be the core group looking at the ideas when they come in. Once the group analyzes the ideas, they will be sent back to the appropriate department head for consideration. That manager will then report the best ideas back to the City Manager for a final decision.


“Just because they work in one department doesn’t mean they can’t submit something for another department,” McDonald said, adding that each department has a departmental project team, with at least the human resources and the financial manager to go through the ideas. “We think it is important that every idea will be tracked from a corporate perspective,” he said. “We want to make sure each of the ideas is well examined.”


Snipes said it is important for the city to be proactive in operating the program. He said employees have expressed an interest in how they can help cut costs, and the City Manager does not want to until February or March when things could get worse.


“You have to identify yourself that you’re submitting the idea, but it is up to the employee whether they want us to follow up with them or not,” he said. “We’ve got templates that are made up that will be placed on the (internal) web site. And there will be a place on it for us to track the information, who submitted it and a way to get back to them.”


According to McDonald, the site will be up for employees on Friday.  He estimates that the program will last five or six weeks but he had no firm estimate of the number of items they expect to receive or how much money the ideas might save to city.


McDonald noted that the city went through a similar project in 2002-03 when the economy soured. Under the new manager, however, the program is expected to be a yearly event for employees to submit their ideas.

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