|Challenges, Changes and Uncertainty--Looking
at the Year Ahead…
|In the midst of the State’s continued
financial hardships and the election of a new Governor,
Orange County residents, cities and counties can expect
more uncertainty. To prepare for the unpredictable times
that lie ahead, County management is working to analyze
and prioritize key services. In addition, a Department
Head Committee is assisting the CEO and budget staff in
developing a balanced financial plan. The goal is to identify
cost reductions and efficiencies without affecting service
to the public or making across-the-board cuts.
Local government acknowledges the enormous budget deficit
that the State is facing and understands the need to develop
a comprehensive, fair and balanced plan to address the
crisis. If the Governor’s proposal is successful
to cut much-needed services and shift 14 percent of the
County’s general purpose revenues, local government
is likely to bear most of the burden.
The Governor’s plan proposes to place more taxes
on gaming and raise fees at State colleges while promising
no new taxes. More significant to County governments,
his proposal includes a property tax shift that would
take money from local governments and give it to the State
to help fund its education obligation. The statewide total
for the tax shift is $1.3 billion. Although the State
did not release the method for determining County allocation
of that burden, the California State Association of Counties
estimates that Orange County's share would be $62 million.
This would be the equivalent of a 14 percent reduction
in the County's general purpose revenues.
In the coming weeks, the Governor’s administration
will be working out details for consolidating, reforming
and reducing more State programs including CalWorks, Medi-Cal
and Healthy Families. Overall, the plan means more cuts
to local government services. The impact of the Governor’s
plan relies heavily on both the $15 billion bond measure
that is on the March 2 ballot and the Legislature’s
actions this summer. Although the County will be affected,
the severity depends primarily on whether the Governor
will keep his commitment to backfill the vehicle license
fee (VLF), which is the County’s biggest area of
concern. Currently, the County is $19 million below budget
on anticipated VLF income.
Realignment funding, which is used for health and mental
health services, is already being affected as a result
of the VLF loss. The County may face the possibility of
trimming some of its most vital community programs, which
serve the elderly, poor and disabled.
need to continue serving the community and accomplishing
goals and mandates in the face of these new challenges,”
said CEO Jim Ruth. “We won’t know for certain
how the Governor’s proposals will affect us until
this summer, but they will be deep and will impact both
County-operated and contracted services. As we move forward,
we need to continue working together to prepare for the
unexpected as we take care of the business at hand. The
County family has weathered difficult times in the past.
Good preparation and team work will help us successfully
meet this challenge.”
|By James D. Ruth
County Executive Officer
||n mid-January, the Board of
Supervisors approved a County reorganization plan
that I had presented to them. We are well underway
in implementing the various parts of the plan, and
I believe we’ll see
|the desired results
in better communication, more support to departments
and enhanced planning time by top managers.
Since I arrived a year ago, it became increasingly
obvious that we needed to make changes to allow
government’s structure to help us get our
work done instead of getting in our way. I believe
that this reorganization is a way to do that.
We started by reducing the CEO’s span of control.
When there are too many people reporting directly to the
CEO, time and attention are reduced that can be given
to working individually with department heads on current
issues and future planning. We reduced the direct reports
from 17 to seven.
To provide the increased support to departments that is
needed, we then realigned the roles of the four Deputy
CEOs (previously called Assistant CEOs). In addition to
the Deputy CEO for Information/Technology Dan Hatton and
the Deputy for Budget and Finance Fred Branca, Bill Mahoney
(Deputy CEO for Government and Public Services) will take
on a new role and oversee five departments. He will provide
direct oversight to Child Support Services, Social Services
Agency, Health Care Agency, Probation Department and the
Public Defender. The new position of Deputy CEO for Infrastructure
and Environment will oversee the departments of Housing
& Community Services, Public Library, Integrated Waste
Management Department, Registrar of Voters and Resource
& Development Management (the combination of Public
Facilities & Resources and the Planning Department).
Vicki Wilson, formerly director of Public Facilities &
Resources, has been assigned to that position.
I will directly supervise the four Deputy CEOs, the Assistant
to the CEO, John Wayne Airport and Human Resources (HR).
Two departmental changes were made. Human Resources is
returning to its former position as a stand-alone department.
This will allow more concerted focus on its primary missions
of training, recruitment and retention, benefits management,
and classification. These workforce activities are the
County’s foundation. The Human Resources director
will continue to report directly to me. As part of HR’s
change, the labor relations section will move into the
scope of the Deputy CEO for Budget and Finance. The obvious
financial implications of labor negotiations – particularly
in this tight budget year – make this a good fit.
This is especially timely because we expect to take at
least 10 labor agreements to the Board in the first half
of this year.
The other departmental change was to combine the Public
Facilities & Resources Department with the Planning
Department. There are many linkages between these departments
on technical and policy issues. This merger will help
create operational efficiencies. The new department will
be headed by Bryan Speegle, formerly the director of the
Here in the executive office, I’ve eliminated eight
vacancies and transferred two CEO staff members to departments
for better coordination of service to our customers.
All these combined changes will result in an ongoing annual
savings of $513,000.
This online newsletter is a result of another change.
I moved the Community & Media Relations section to
report to my Assistant to the CEO Rob Richardson for greater
emphasis on communication outreach. You can expect to
see these regularly.
There are other changes that we started before the reorganization.
A committee of department heads meets regularly to discuss
operational and budget issues and to ensure that we have
department input as we make plans. In cooperation with
Chapman University, we have kicked off a Leadership Academy
to provide training for our managers. And, finally, I’ve
directed all departments to develop a succession plan
that identifies future leaders and plans for their professional
We have initiated changes that will have immediate impact
and others that are the building blocks to improve the
County’s future. This reorganization will help provide
tightened fiscal accountability, improved oversight and
more effective management of operations. Because departments
will receive more attention for needed support and interaction
from my office, department heads will be able to more
effectively manage their agencies and help you do your
| I am grateful for your
support through these changes, and I appreciate
the team work I’ve witnessed this year
from County employees. Our primary goal is
to provide quality services to the residents
of Orange County, and you are on that front
line every day. This reorganization will support
you in providing excellent service and in
making good government better.
|If you have questions
about the future of the County, a suggestion
about providing service more efficiently
or an idea that improves customer service,
send it along to this regular feature
in your new, online County employee
All questions and suggestions will be
reviewed by CEO staff and shared with
the appropriate department. CEO Jim
Ruth will respond in this newsletter
to the most representative ones.
All questions must be signed, but names
will not be printed in the newsletter.
You may submit items by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may also fax to 714.796.8426 or
pony to County Connection, third floor,
Hall of Administration. Read the next
issue of County Connection for the first
Ask the CEO.