Wednesday, February 22, 2023

My 2.21.23 Meeting Summary

Last night the Council met to discuss a few significant items:

- We decided to continue to conduct hybrid format meetings, meaning that members of the public would be able to participate remotely.  This began under COVID, but as the State emergency declaration is expiring, the use of hybrid meetings is not required.  There is a cost associated with having meetings in this format as we engage with a vendor to facilitate the meeting administration, I believe the value that is added by having meetings more accessible merits the cost.

- We discussed the non-profit rental rates of Endeavor Hall.  Historically various non-profit groups would use Endeavor hall for events or meetings, but several had specific arrangements where they would get a certain discount, or have fees waived entirely.  This wasn't well documented and besides not being objective, it also added additional administrative burden to manage.  Continuing my effort to make City operations more efficient, I brought this item forward so we could formalize the rates the City charges for use of Endeavor.

We gave direction to staff to have a multi tiered billing schedule that would apply to Clayton based non-profits based on their annual gross revenues.  For those non-profits with annual revenues under $10K, they could arrange to use Endeavor at no charge up to three times per year.  For those non-profits with annual revenues between $10K and $150K, they could use Endeavor at the non-profit rate discounted 80%.  For those non-profits with annual revenues greater than $150K, they could use Endeavor at the non-profit rate discounted 50%.

One of the largest users of Endeavor is the Clayton Theater Company.  As with many arts programs, without outside support, this program would not be able to continue.  We've seen this play out in our schools where arts and specifically music programs have been cut.  This was an area where our actions have a direct impact on the viability of an arts program and the city could make a difference.  As such, I was happy to bring this forward and support formalizing the City's support going forward.

- We set a date for a Special Meeting on March 13, 2023 for a Council goal setting session.  It will be at 3:30pm and held at Hoyer Hall as well as on Zoom.  I've asked each Councilmember to bring and be prepared to discuss their top three goals so that we can discuss and prioritize them.  I've also asked our City Manager to collect and aggregate staff department goals as well as it is important be cognizant of both time and resource constraints in executing on any Council goals.  

Last year, we set three goals - a structurally sustainable budget, identification of technology and tools necessary to support city staff, and completing a compliant housing element to state HUD.  While we did meet the last item, we fell short on the first two.  

Unfortunately in the prior two years, leadership squandered time and money paying for consultants to tell us what we already know, and neglected performing the analysis necessary to assess where we could increase operational efficiency.  It is my top priority to achieve a fiscally sustainable budget and much of our activity this year will be focused around this effort.  Nothing is off the table as fiscal sustainability is required for ongoing city operations.  Right now the effort is focused on cost reduction through efficiency and elimination of unnecessary work, and revenue generation through more productive use of investments and more effective cost recovery for services.

I have also asked our City Manager to work with staff and come up with a list of what type of tools or technology that would make their work more efficient and effective.  Labor costs are only going up, and to be able to do more with less, staff will need tools to do so.  When the Council receives this information it will be evaluated to determine feasibility and prioritization.

On a go forward basis my top goal will continue to be fiscal sustainability and operational excellence.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Upcoming Meeting 2.21.23

There are a few significant items we will be discussing at our next meeting:

- We will discuss whether we continue with hybrid meetings. This format is no longer required, however we can continue allowing people to participate via zoom if the Council so chooses.  There is a cost associated with conducting meetings this way and the Council will discuss whether it wants to do so. 

- We will discuss Endeavor Hall fees.  Historically several local groups have used Endeavor Hall at different rates based on one off agreements with various city staff.  We will discuss putting a policy in place to formalize these so that use of Endeavor can continue with greater transparency and clarity. 

- We will set a date for a special meeting to conduct our annual goal setting session. 

If you have any thoughts or questions on the above please let me know.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Upcoming Special Meeting 2.16.23 and Other Updates

The Council will be having a Special Meeting this Thursday to meet with the firm we engaged to conduct the executive search for a full time City Manager.  The meeting will take place in closed session so there likely won't be much to update, but I wanted to share that the process is continuing to move forward.

There's quite a bit of other activity that is happening at City Hall and that I wanted to provide updates on as well.  At our last meeting we approved upleveling one police officer position to a Sergeant and I'm pleased to share that Officer Torey Jarvis was promoted to Sergeant Torey Jarvis.  Congratulations!

Our new full time Finance Director, Angeline Loeffler began on 2.13.23 and will be diving right in on our mid year budget review.  Because of the vacancy in this role, we have had to put a number of projects on hold.  With the start of Ms. Loeffler, I'm hopeful we'll be able to gain traction on both fiscal sustainability efforts and an improvement in overall operational excellence.  

One such effort that we will be undertaking in the very short term is looking at our overall asset allocation as it relates to investments.  According to our latest report, our asset portfolio was approximately $13M, with a blended rate yield of approximately 1.66%.  The bulk of our investments are in longer term CDs, with smaller components placed in Treasury Notes, US Bonds, and local government investment pools.  Due to the longer durations of some of our investments, the yields on these have not kept up with what is currently available.  Had we invested in shorter duration assets, we would have been more able to adjust as the market moved and our prior year budget deficits would have been reduced significantly if not entirely.  

With current short and mid term US Treasuries yielding at near 5%, there is significant opportunity to earn greater returns with zero added risk.  As a result, I have asked our Interim City Manager and our new Finance Director to prioritize this asset reallocation as soon as possible.

During the height of COVID, we demonstrated that the work of the city could continue even if City Hall was not always open to the public.  Considering this, and looking for a way to alleviate some of the unpredictable demand on staff, I suggested that we provide dedicated time to focus for our city staff without distractions.  This idea was met enthusiastically by both our prior and current Interim City Manager, as well as city staff.  Accordingly, City Hall will be closing to the public on Wednesdays, beginning February 15.  Often there is work that requires dedicated attention, but because of vacancies and our small staff in general, when they need to address individuals who come to City Hall it can disrupt their work and cause inefficiencies.  Staff will continue to be working, but allowing them to have dedicated time to focus should allow them to structure their workload to be as efficient as possible while still being available to provide service to the public.  

I continue to look for ways to improve efficiency for staff, service to residents, while making progress towards fiscal sustainability.  More to come as we move forward.   If you are interested in receiving updates by email, please sign up here:

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

My 2.8.23 Meeting Summary

Last night the Council met to discuss a few significant items.  Unfortunately due to technical difficulties the wifi at Hoyer Hall was not functioning properly and both the audio and video portions of the meeting did not stream properly.  Video should have been recorded however so hopefully that will be available at the city website soon.

- We accepted the audited Annual Comprehensive Financial Report (ACFR) of the city.  Fiscal year 2022 (ended June 30, 2022) was an outlier in that we received ARPA funding which distorted the results of operations as compared to prior years.  Overall the city continues to maintain a health reserve which is good because it means we can be thoughtful on how we address our ongoing budget deficits.  We must take action, but it is not so urgent that we do not have time to be assess the best course of action.  

The audit identified three material weaknesses in internal controls, and one significant deficiency.  A material weakness is a deficiency, or a combination of deficiencies, in internal control, such that there is a reasonable possibility that a material misstatement of the financial statements will not be prevented, or detected and corrected, on a timely basis.  A significant deficiency is a deficiency, or combination of deficiencies, in internal control that is less severe than a material weakness, yet important enough to merit attention by those charged with governance.  

The nature of the material weaknesses identified primarily related to turnover and continuity of personnel.  While day to day operations of the city are being covered, certain activities that are less regular in nature suffer when we lose staff without well documented processes and the ability to maintain them. This will be an area of focus for the new Finance Director who is starting on Monday.

- We adopted a resolution to uplevel one Police Officer position to a Sergeant.  This action does not impact the overall number of sworn police, however it does change the level of one position.  Prior to this adoption, Clayton had three Sergeants who act in a supervisory capacity while on duty.  Because the police operate 24/7/365, this meant that there were a couple days each week where there were no supervisory roles on duty and should the officers who were working at the time need guidance or support, they would need to call one of the off duty Sergeants.  By making this change, we ensure that there is a supervisor on duty at all times, and we provide additional advancement potential for our police.  This idea was brought forward by Chief McEachin and received the support of the Clayton Police Officers Association and for these reasons, I was glad to support the Chief and the POA in providing better protection to the city.

- We updated our municipal code removing the requirement that all checks be signed by either the Mayor or Vice Mayor.  Requiring a second signature from one of the elected positions caused inefficiency in the workflow of staff as they would have to wait and follow up in order to issue payment.  As the full City Council approves all disbursements at our regular meetings prior to them being issued, there was not a value add in having these physically signed by the Mayor or Vice Mayor.  Two signatures will still be required on all disbursements and we and reviewed the change with our auditors and there was no concern regarding segregation of duties at City Hall to move forward with this change.

Monday, February 6, 2023

Upcoming Meeting 2.7.23

There are a few significant items that we will be discussing at our next meeting:

- We will discuss the results of the annual audit for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2022.  There continue to be several material weaknesses in internal control, as well as significant deficiencies that we will discuss.

- We will discuss upleveling one police officer to a Sergeant

- We will discuss an updated ordinance adjusting who is required to sign check payments.  Currently all  the Mayor or Vice Mayor is required to sign all checks which seems redundant as the full council approves all payments prior to them being issued.  This also creates inefficiencies in the regular course of business.

If you have any thoughts or questions on the above, please let me know.