Consultant presents findings of finance department to Ascension Council

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Patrick Goldsmith of SSA Consultants made a presentation regarding the ongoing effectiveness study at the Parish Ascension Council virtual meeting on February 4th.

SSA Consultants CEO Christel Slaughter, who previously described the results of the Public Works Department’s study, introduced Goldsmith to the board. Its objective was the financial service of the parish.

To identify opportunities for efficiency and effectiveness, the scope of work included: interviews with finance management and staff, review of data, interviews with department heads, participation in a leadership retreat and assistance in the organization and design of the Open Finance Transparency website.

Highlighting the results, Goldsmith said department heads need to own budgets. Additionally, comprehensive performance data must be created for accountability.

In addition, data systems need to be reassessed to account for performance measurement, training is needed on the budget process, and historical financial data needs to be in an accessible system.

In exploring authorized positions, Goldsmith recommended that the parish administration formally adopt in a policy or ordinance the list of positions in the budget adopted by the council. The administration should develop formal policies and procedures documenting the process to ensure that new employees comply with the list of authorized positions.

In addition, the administration should require quarterly reports to the board on changes to authorized positions in an effort to ensure transparency. In addition, the administration should allow department heads some form of access to personnel data.

Goldsmith said not all department heads complete budget spreadsheets during the budget process, which shifts responsibilities to the finance department.

According to Goldsmith, department heads were willing to get more involved in the process and might just need some advice. Part of the disconnect is due to historical budget data spread across two different systems.

In another issue, Goldsmith said 54 people are eligible for retirement with a collective amount of $ 1.7 million against their severance pay.

To give perspective, he said the top five people account for about $ 500,000 in severance pay.

“So if they retire, this vacation bank will be a big hit,” Goldsmith said.

Recently, an employee retired with $ 80,000 in severance pay, he added.

The recommendations included: provide the budget process and data system training to each department manager before the next budget development, set department managers’ expectations to create a complete and timely budget spreadsheet, consider requesting the manager to present his proposed budget to the finance committee, compile historical budget data in one system and consider budgeting for severance pay.

Goldsmith said not all department heads had tracked their budgets throughout the year. The administration did not hold regular meetings with department heads and the finance department.

He recommended that they set expectations for monitoring budgets, hold periodic meetings with directors, present updates to the finance committee, create a standard budget template for heads of departments, and revise them. monthly reports to finance committee to include detailed data summary.

Introducing performance measurement, Goldsmith said the administration is in the process of finalizing a strategic plan to define the mission, vision and goals for the parish.

He reviewed internal performance metrics for each department and created outcome, production, and efficiency metrics to track staff productivity. Examples given included GIS and GPS tracking.

Goldsmith said administration should finalize goals and communicate results to departments, provide training to each department head on strategic thinking, hold meetings for each department, and include newly developed performance data in the budget for the department. ‘fiscal year 2022.

He also stressed the importance of data and the systems to process it.

Goldsmith concluded by reviewing a process for following up on the consultant’s recommendations.

“We don’t want him to go on a shelf. We hear all the time that the reports are not being followed up, and they are repeated over and over again, so it is important that we make sure that is done, ”he said.

Following the presentation, District 6 Council Member Chase Melancon expressed concern about the accumulated hours set aside in severance pay.

While some are grandfathered, sick leave and vacation hours are capped, Goldsmith and Slaughter explained.

Travis Turner, who represents District 3, said the parish government has to contend with well-paying jobs in factories in the parish’s industrial sector.

“In order to compete with these factories, we have to have advantages that factories don’t have,” Turner said.

Aaron Lawler, District 7 Council Member, emphasized the importance of implementing a timely action plan. The administration and the board have less than three years remaining under current terms.

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