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Comments re Item G4 Budget and Financial Transparency Initiative | May 14, 2019 City Council Meeting.

From: Soody Tronson (STLGip) <"Soody>
Date: Tue, 14 May 2019 10:57:55 -0700

Dear Menlo Park City Council

The May 14th Council Special Meeting Agenda includes several Informational Items G1-G7. Although I can comment about almost every item on this agenda, I will limit the scope of this email to a portion of the “Budget and Financial Transparency Initiative” on page 2 of the Informational Item G4 (the “Executive summary of city manager’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2019-20 Staff Report Number #19-088-CC).

At the onset, let me make clear that I fully support and have personally been pushing for a robust and effective IT Master Plan and its implementation at least as early as 3 years ago. This is why I have certain concerns about its progress to-date, and the planned next steps. The following is a partial list of issues (which do not address the details of the project itself) and questions.

I am also attaching a document which more details as to the partial list of documents (with links for your convenience) used in preparing this memo.

Issues re the Budget and Financial Transparency Initiative Informational Item

· The manner in which it is being presented (e.g. Informational instead of discussed);

· Its timeline (just a couple of work days ahead of a meeting not allowing for substantive review by the public (this appears to be a routine). I’m at awe that Council can review so many documents and sort through project histories in such a short time;

· The allotted time for such a packed agenda on May 14th 2019, making it impossible to and limiting public education and participation have any meaningful exchange even if it were not designated as “informational”;

· Lack of public engagement and limiting public education and participation, ironically despite Item F3 on the same agenda entitled “Adopt Pilot Program to Implement the Institute for Local Government’s Public Engagement Framework (staff report #19-098-cc);

· The Budget and financial transparency initiative narrative states that “on may 21, staff will present the city manager’s proposed budget as a study session in lieu of the budget workshop presentation generally held for the public” deviating from prior practice of workshops.

· The same narrative also recommends “to streamline the selection process”. This project has been on the books since at least 2015. RFQs, their open pendency, and selection of contractors, appear to be routinely carried out in haste.

· The narrative includes a lot of words but no substantive information as to the history of this initiative (the IT Master Plan), the progress to date, deliverables with metrics; since 2015 and in particular since 2017 (initiative was funded, at least in part with $3M in 2015, the study completed in 2016, and reported on in 2017).


KEY QUESTIONS:

· That budget now has increased by close to $2M, from $7.25M to $9M (Attachment A of SRN 19-035-CC referenced Page 113 of the CITY OF MENLO PARK FISCAL YEAR 2018–19 ADOPTED BUDGET.) Although it is appreciated that the original estimate was in the ‘middle’ and time has passed, what is the explanation for what this $2M increase. Is this due to offsetting of the cost of staffing added as an amendment and adopted in the fiscal year 2016–17 budget to implement the information technology master plan?

· There are no timelines, deliverables, metrics, or updated detailed budgets (or at least none that I could find) beyond what was provided in 2017 (Staff Report 17-007-CC). Nor, is there any status report of what portions of the project, which was approved in 2017 (funded in 2015), have been completed.

· So, the question remains, what department is managing this project and where are clear reports and metrics (activities are not metrics) and explanation of the speed in which it has been moving since it was funded in 2017. What has been accomplished since winter of 2017? What are objective ways in which this critical program can be monitored and audited to ensure it stays on track and delivers what is should?

· Would it not be more useful to all, if the same text were replaced, at least with a chart of timeline, deliverables, and progress made to date?

· Is this project going to be awarded with an RFQ which has a short open pendency? Will the RFQ for this complex project, which requires substantive review and a complex thorough proposal by bidders, be posted for only a short period of time (“the recommendation is to streamline the selection process”)? It is not as if, the need was just identified.

· The Project as outlined in Attachment B of of SRN 19-035-CC makes no reference to Enterprise Resource Planning which was one of the “Top Priority Initiatives” of the commissioned study in 2016 and which included, specifically, finance, including the Capital Improvement Projects.


The appendix which is part of the attached memo, provides a partial list of various documents used in preparing this memo.

Disclaimer: The public has had many comments regarding the inefficient cataloguing and access to documents on the City’s website. There is no easy way to find all the information on this topic in a meaningful manner. What appears below, is the best I could gather after searching for several hours using keywords (often more successful using Google search engine than City’s own search box). So, if there is anything missing, it is not intentional. Furthermore, this memo was prepared in a very short period of time, due to short notice, so I appreciate your patience with its less than perfect grammar and organization



Soody Tronson
Menlo Park Resident
Received on Tue May 14 2019 - 10:52:57 PDT

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