Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Back to Basics - Overview of Town Services

I am taking the opportunity to share with you a basic overview of services that the Town provides with your generous tax dollars. The services your Town government provides and their costs are outlined in a draft Strategic Financial Plan that your Council is currently reviewing. Preparation of such a Plan was a pledge with respect to our five-year Measure F tax, and is an excellent opportunity for all of us to have a document detailing the services we provide and how much it costs to run Fairfax’s government. In order to provide the Plan to a wider audience and to enhance transparency in decision-making, I will periodically provide sections from the Plan in this blog.

Like most municipal agencies, the Town is in the business of providing “service.” We exist to serve the public and to help solve community problems. The people who provide this service are our employees, and this results in personnel costs being the largest expenditure in our budget (
approximately 77% of the general fund budget). The Town currently has budgeted 29 full-time employee positions. In comparison to other small Marin municipalities, Fairfax has the lowest employee/population ratio in the County.

To work toward a sustainable budget, while saving money in order afford fair compensation and benefits for our existing employees, one Administrative Assistant position has been frozen since September 2006, with the workload being absorbed by current employees.

The Town recognizes that personnel will always be its largest expenditure category, and the Council must strike an appropriate balance between providing fair wages and benefits and living within a sustainable budget. The Town of Fairfax government provides a “no frills” modest level of basic services to its residents. Demand for responsiveness just to meet these basic services, plus frequent requests for enhanced services, always exceeds the staff and resources available based on our revenue limitations. It is important to acknowledge the services which are currently provided so that if discussions regarding where services can be reduced or if the community is interested in where funding is currently being allocated, the information may be included as part of that conversation.

Police: The Police Department handles approximately 14,000 incidents per year and provides a full-range of services including routine patrol services, accident investigation, juvenile support programs, alcohol enforcement, traffic enforcement, domestic violence and drug investigations as well as other complex criminal investigations. They are the primary agency responsible for commercial parking enforcement and also coordinate tree regulations within the Town.

The Department has 16 full-time employees, including 11 sworn employees, five non-sworn employees and four part-time/reserve employees. They maintain a 24/7 state of the art dispatch center, handling all 9-1-1 and non-emergency calls, all while providing an around the clock walk-in lobby for residents. The Department is committed to providing high visibility service for the unique, vibrant nightlife that draws many visitors to the various bars that host live entertainment.

Fire: Since 1982, the Town has been in a Joint Powers Authority for fire services with the Town of San Anselmo. The Ross Valley Fire Service is funded by the two towns, and has achieved efficiencies of service delivery and is a more viable and efficient method of providing fire services than for each town to maintain their own fire department. The two towns own the fire station buildings and are responsible for capital improvements to the facilities. The Town of Fairfax is responsible for 30.4% of the Ross Valley Fire budget each year, which represents approximately 18% of the Town’s general fund expenditures.

Public Works: This department is staffed by six employees, the Public Works Director, two Lead Maintenance Workers and three Maintenance Workers. The array of services provided with this small staff include managing the capital improvement program and Measure K-funded infrastructure improvements, public street maintenance and repair, storm drain and disaster related repairs, storm water program management, plans and specifications for bidding procedures, cleaning and maintaining all parks, public landscaping, and Town facilities management.

Planning and Building: Planning and Building Services are provided by four staff members, the Planning and Building Director, Building Official and Senior Planner, with staff assistance from an Administrative Assistant who is shared with Finance. Services provided include facilitating a comprehensive update of the General Plan, which has been a priority articulated by Council, processing planning and building permit applications, building inspection, processing variances and Planning Commission items, supporting the Planning Commission, General Plan Advisory Committee and Design Review Board, drafting zoning amendments, and assuring project compliance with the environmental review process.

Recreation/Volunteers: The Volunteer Program and Parks and Recreational Program are supported by one half-time Community Resources Coordinator. Services provided include staff support of the Volunteer Board and the Parks and Recreation Commission and coordination of the programs and priorities of each board, which include certain community special events.

Administration and Finance: This department consists of four employees, down from five since September 2006. The employees are the Town Manager, Finance Director, Assistant to the Town Manager/Town Clerk, and one Administrative Assistant. Services provided include management of the Town and the staff, support of the priorities of the Council, all mandated financial responsibilities and reporting requirements, budget development, payroll and personnel functions, technology and website management, building rentals, government code mandates such as local elections, plus Brown Act compliance (agendas and minutes) and customer service.