Ferry ponders efficiency program

MARTINS FERRY Funds are tight and the city is taking steps to save money in its operations. The finance committee held a meeting Thursday to hear a presentation from Timothy J. Kraft, Southeast Regional Liason for the state auditor, regarding the Leverage for Efficiency, Accounting, and Performance program.

Council will decide whether or not to apply for the program during a service meeting after its July 2 council meeting, but finance committee members, the mayor, auditor and other council members present said they saw potential in the service.

Kraft said the process involves scheduling a performance audit. Council will put forward departments that may need advice in efficiency. Auditors will perform cost/benefit analysis and also compare Martins Ferry with other cities of similar size and subject to similar geographic and economic conditions. They will make council aware of which cities are being compared and on what criteria. Auditors will then provide recommendations for how to best save money on operations. These could include whether to lease or buy vehicles, or whether departments are overstaffed or understaffed.

Council will be free to accept or reject the suggestions.

Among other concerns, Auditor Rita Randall brought up concerns about how health care reform will affect expenses such as emergency services. She noted the cost of insurance for the 35 employees.

“Putting insurance on 35 people is going to break that department,” she said.

Kraft added that they would be relying on the city’s input.

“You know your city better than we do,” he said. “We want to be efficient with our time.”

The audit would likely take six to 10 months.

He added that the group had also performed an audit for Barnesville Schools.

Mayor Paul Riethmiller noted this would be the first such audit in recent years, if ever.

“We all want to work together to make the city work more efficiently,” Riethmiller said. “I think it shows good faith to the citizens of our community that we want to call in an audit on ourselves so we can all learn how to run the city more efficiently.”

He noted that while funds for necessities are scarce, the city has not been placed in a category related to fiscal caution.

“We want to make sure that we don’t get to those steps. We’ve been very fortunate, but we do know that our budget is very tight, so we want to look and get suggestions from outside people that tell us where we can run the city more efficiently,” he said. “This is one of the reasons we want to look at this and get this moving forward.”

An estimation will be provided if council decides to utilize the service. Riethmiller said the cost would be minimal compared to the potential savings for the city.

DeFrank can be reached at rdefarnk@timesleaderonline.com