While the end of bureaucratic red tape may not be at hand, county government improved its effectiveness and efficiency in 2006 compared with a year earlier, according to its own report.
Among the year’s major accomplishments was the creation of a new gang-intelligence task force, run by the Sheriff’s Office, that helped drive down crime in the county. Health officials took on childhood obesity and alcohol, tobacco and other drugs in hopes of realizing long-term health savings, and the county Housing Department completed a 10-year plan to end homelessness.
Not all departments did so well, however. The publicly funded San Mateo Medical Center, for example, continued to experience skyrocketing costs. Residents wanting to build new homes or complete home renovations, faced three-month delays in the Planning and Building division, according to the analysis.
"I think we can always do better," Deputy County Manager Reyna Farrales said.
The annual performance report — first implemented in 2000 — tracks the performance of the county’s 18 departments, which serve about 730,000 county residents. The county oversees everything from public health to the courts to local tax collection with about 5,700 staff and a budget of about $1.6 billion. Performance is measured year to year using such standards as customer satisfaction and budget efficiency, according to Farrales.
This year, 11 out of 18 county departments achieved 75 percent or more of their annual targets — the county’s stated goal — according to the analysis. The figure is a substantial improvement from 2005, when just seven out of 17 departments achieved 75 percent or more of their targets, Farrales said. However, five out of 18 departments performed more poorly than a year earlier.
The county Sheriff’s Office showed the greatest year-to-year increase in performance, reining in gang violence and clearing a backlog of cases at the forensics lab, according to the report. The county’s low crime rate was a direct result of the increased policing of gangs, particularly in the southern part of the county, Sheriff Greg Munks told The Examiner.
There was one major crime for every 34 people in the county in 2006, compared with one in 25 for the Bay Area, according to sheriff’s records.
Among the county’s less efficient departments was the San Mateo Medical Center, which improved its performance over a year ago, but fell far short of meeting the county standard of 75 percent or above. The hospital’s inability to containing medical costs continued to be its Achilles’ heel. The medical center also struggled to expand the number of patients it serves in an effort to add revenue, according to the report.
Indigent care costs at the medical center required a $58 million subsidy from the county, plus a $14 million loan this fiscal year.
Residents hoping to build their dream home or complete a quick remodel came up against delays of more than three months in the Planning and Building division, due to staffing shortages and a reorganization after it was spun off into its own department in 2006.
"We’ve been trying to fill [eight vacant positions] for the past six to seven months," Planning and Building Director Lisa Grote said. The department’s heavy workload and high salaries elsewhere have resulted in three new hires leaving after a matter of weeks, raising concerns about retention, Grote said.