Is Hawaii County Really Going to Get Serious About Technology?

The Hawaii County Cost of Government Commission has released the latest “DRAFT REPORT” for  Cost of Government Commission Agendas and Minutes, this afternoon.

It looks like Hawaii County might finally be getting serious about technology!

DRAFT REPORT

As the Commission investigated how our County government could reduce costs and enhance revenues, we found that changing the way we do business as a County is imperative if we are to move fully into the 21st century. Just as innovation and adaptability are the action words for private enterprise, these same concepts must motivate the public sector if we are to contain the costs of County government yet still provide essential services to support the quality of life its citizen’s desire.

As the Commission gathered input from departments, legislators and County employees, we found that many excellent suggestions to save costs and enhance revenues were not being taken into consideration. The lack of flexibility in the negotiation of union contracts prevents the application of reasonable and efficient cost saving measures. The absence of a county-wide technology plan reduces the efficiencies of operations. A resistance to adoption of simple cost saving measures such as online approvals and electronic signatures makes the County’s contracting process slow and unresponsive. Continuing practices such as extending homeowner exemptions to unpermitted buildings not only short changes the County coffers, but encourages unsafe and unsanitary living conditions while forcing all the County’s residents to pay higher tax rates to fund this practice.

The Commission decided to tackle its mandate by looking not only at ways to reduce the costs of government, but also by identifying ways to enhance revenues. Are building permit fees too low? Could the County charge user fees for services that are currently offered for free? We looked at what services really are the responsibility of the County to provide and how we can continue to support the needs of the island’s population and visitors without being forced to reduce public services to an unacceptable level. This Commission served during an especially difficult economic downturn as reflected by furlough days and implementation of other drastic measures to contain costs, yet the recommendations provided herein should be guiding principles for our County government even when the economy is expanding.

We organized our efforts to address a theme which was to identify the essential services of County government. We then identified three overarching issues that the County must address: Technology, Contracting, Collections and Fees. The Commission organized into subcommittees and solicited input from all of the County’s workforce, its elected and appointed officials, and members of other Boards and Commission. We used the information and feedback to develop the recommendations in this report. The specific recommendations of the Commission are presented in a top down manner. First we present county-wide actions that need to be addressed. Then we provide recommendations specific to some of the County’s departments. Lastly we address changes that impact the rank and file workers of the County. The bottom line for our findings is that the way we do business as a local government has to change.

You can read the full draft report here: Hawaii County Draft Report County Cost of Government Commission

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