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Mt. Lebanon commission spends $64,000 to trim fat

| Thursday, Oct. 30, 2008

Mt. Lebanon commissioners hope they can save money by spending money.

With warnings of a $1.3 million increase in expenses looming over the next fiscal year, the commissioners unanimously approved a $64,000 efficiency study by Palo Alto, Calif.-based Matrix Consulting Group. It will examine the city's operations, organization, services and technology. Its recommendations, the commissioners hope, will help them trim fat from the budget and reduce the projected shortfall.

"We have a lot of budget items that have gone up this year: the gas, the salt, the cost of repairing our roads," said commission President Dale Colby.

The commissioners have tabled a measure offering city employees bonuses for identifying more efficient ways of doing business, in the interest of avoiding conflicts of interest with Matrix's work.

"You may be doing something one way that's worked for decades, but someone can come in with fresh eyes and take you in a different direction," said Commissioner Joe DeIuliis. "Sometimes, just doing what you know holds you back."

After an initial proposal that would have cost the city $100,000, the consultant offered a "risk and reward" arrangement: The initial cost would be lower, $63,660, but it would collect an additional fee based on how much money its recommendations could save the city. The total bill could range from $69,488 for a 1 percent reduction, to $121,940 for 10 percent.

On Monday, Municipal Manager Stephen Feller said he will present the commissioners with his proposed budget for 2009. Several public meetings will be scheduled before the commissioners approve a budget at the end of December.

The consultant will interview and survey employees, compare the municipality's management structure with others like it, and collect information on how it provides services, Feller said. The study will take four months, from late October to mid-February, with an update for the commissioners scheduled for December, he said.

If the consultants' recommendations could be implemented immediately, they could be introduced as amendments to the municipal budget after it is adopted, Colby said.

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