04/07/14 — County to begin retreat, talk goals

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County to begin retreat, talk goals

By Steve Herring
Published in News on April 7, 2014 2:08 PM

Wayne County commissioners are expected to spend all day Tuesday talking about the county budget, their search for a new county manager, and state legislative issues during a planning retreat at Walnut Creek Country Club.

The retreat, which will start at 8 a.m., is open to the public.

"We are going to talk about major goals," Interim County Manager George Wood said. "For example, we know that we are going to have to deal with jail overcrowding. That is a given. Another is what are we going to do with the Will Sullivan building because it has some issues."

Wood said he would break those goals down by departments. Some projects won't be as large as others, and they will be a mix of capital and operating projects, he said

"What should come out of that are instructions, if you will, for what they want to see," Wood said.

Wood said he would talk in general terms about the budget and the county's key revenue sources -- property, vehicle, and sales taxes. He also plans to talk about potential revenue growth.

He said he would not "be drilling down" into budget details. That will follow in the coming months as he meets with staff.

The idea is to get commissioners to talk about big issues, he said.

Wood said he also wants to discuss making some changes in the budget format. However, he said he was not ready to be specific until he could first talk to commissioners.

State legislators are scheduled to join the retreat at 2 p.m.

"Wherever we are at that stage we will stop," Wood said.

Commissioners will talk to legislators primarily about the legislative goals of the state Association of County Commissioners. The top priority is protecting lottery proceeds for school construction and debt service.

The funding has already been cut before.

"The Board of Education has promised $2.2 million annually from lottery and sales tax," Wood said. "If the state takes the money, then we have a major funding problem."

The third component of the session will be the search for a permanent county manager.

"What we want to do is develop a manager profile of what you are looking for," he said.

For example with the county poised to possibly renovate the closed Wayne Correctional Center into a jail, it might be helpful if the new manager has experience dealing with architects and major projects, he said.

"You want to match up what you are confronting with their skill levels," Wood said.

It is important as well that a new manager possess the necessary "soft skills" -- how to deal with employees and the public, he said.

It is critical that any county manager have very good financial and budgetary experience, he said.

It is as important as well that the manager know how to hire good people, and bring in supervisors and hold them accountable, Wood said.

Commissioners have their own individual ideas of what they want in a manager, he said. The retreat will help nail down what they are interested in, Wood said.

That will dictate what the advertisement for manager will have in it, he said.

Wood said he also plans to provide a rough time frame for the process.