As we begin to enter the process of formulating our 2016 budget (our fiscal year is January 1), we carefully analyze the need for staffing. As you can imagine, the biggest single cost within our annual operating budget are those associated with personnel. That’s no surprise since we are in the business of service delivery. Oddly stated, our Product is Service. As a member of the management team since 2001, I have participated in many, many conversations about efficiency and the delivery of service. Our entire organization works together on a very regular basis to seek opportunities to merge positions, share responsibilities, cross-train; and do all of this while still delivering a high quality level of service. In the early 2000’s when I started my career with Auburn Hills, I remember that our budgeted headcount was one hundred eighty full time staff positions. We of course compliment that with a number of permanent part time staff; and seasonal staff that primarily support our Community Center, DPW, and golf course. The one hundred eighty back then included Library staff, and they too have streamlined their numbers in recent years. Today, the City has one hundred seventy full time positions budgeted, and is currently operating at one hundred fifty seven. So what do we accomplish with one hundred fifty seven people? Police and Police Dispatch (24/7/365), Fire & EMS (24/7/365), DPW (roads, sewer, water, parks and grounds, forestry, facilities), Community Development (Building, Planning, Zoning, Code Enforcement, Economic Development) City Clerk, Treasurer, Assessing, I.T., Finance, H.R., Recreation, Senior Services, Fieldstone Golf Club, Community Relations and City Manager’s office. So when you do all of that with so few people, this means that many people are wearing many hats and that makes each and every member of the Team highly valuable because they are responsible for a wide variety of tasks. And when you create that level of efficiency, you must remember the fatigue factor. While it may be a source of pride to brag about all the services we provide with so few people, we have to remember that at some point, our staff can become weary. That can lead to a whole host of other challenges. For the record, no one is whining. Well, maybe a little here and there. But our staff, particularly post-2008, has taken up the challenge of continuing to deliver all of the services we have always delivered with a whole lot less people, and they have done it willingly and without drama. It’s easy to criticize government at all levels, even at the local level. We get that. It’s always in fashion. But we see our Auburn Hills local government as “not your typical local government” and we think we prove that day in and day out. Are we perfect? No way. Do we strive for perfection? You bet we do.
As City Manager, I’ll hold up our Team against any other local government organization, and I know that within this area there are some good ones. If you take the time to talk with one of our employees, you’ll know how much they appreciate serving this community and the passion they have for public service. I’m proud of the members of our staff and will continue to select new staff members that are committed to the ongoing mission of delivering great service in an efficient manner. But don’t worry . . . this isn’t a setup for a big staffing increase in 2016. It just means that we will constantly evaluate, re-evaluate, and adjust accordingly to balance the needs of the community with the financial resources available to us. And we will do all of that while considering a work-life balance for our employees that keeps them focused on maintaining a level of pride each of them possesses about working for the great City of Auburn Hills.
Tom Tanghe, City Manager
Author’s note: A shout out to the Library which operates independently, and doing so with only four full time positions and a host of part time support, very similar to City operations.