Deb Pierrel Calls for Budget Over Haul

Deb Pierrel
P.O. Box 2536
Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546

June 20, 2010
Honorable Mayor: Neil McCarroll, Skip Harvey, Wendy Sugimura, Jo Bacon, John Eastman,
Rick Wood and Matthew Lehman
Mammoth Lakes Town Council: Current and Appointees
C/O: Jamie Gray, Town Clerk
P.O. Box 1609
Mammoth Lakes, CA 94536
~ Sent via Email~
RE: Mammoth Lakes Budget and Budget Process

Dear Town Council Members,
I am writing with regard to our Town budget, its structure, format, and process. The timing of this letter is purposeful, as you started budget discussions this week. I am proposing and encourage this bold yet necessary action to improve Mammoth Lakes. I urge you to take a step back, reevaluate and dramatically change our budget, the clarity and transparency of it, the process in which it is created, and the format.
It is my direct observation over the past years that our budget is dysfunctional. It is not clear, concise, transparent, or easy to read and understand. Many items refer to other items within it. There are statements made in the priority section about no $ ramifications which are vague and poorly represented, with no definition. There is no obvious lineitem calculation to show how larger numbers are created.
It was evident by this election that the community desires better fiscal oversight. I think the first step is the budget format and process. I am asking for this change and I am willing to help. I know we are capable of great transformation. The new Town website is an example of such improvement. I applaud those who participated in its vision and creation.
The Council must set the Town’s spending priorities and make Staff responsible for implementing only these priorities. I believe that department heads should and can create and be accountable for their own budgets. We have to track variances to the budget on a monthly basis to immediately identify where we are off target and address how we plan to move forward and fix or mitigate those deviations.
I highly recommend that we start with focus on the format, process and structure of the budget. Community members must have the ability and appropriate venue and timeframe to give advance input; which coupled with a new format will allow for more trust and understanding of our budget. This will immediately change the tone from frustration to positivity. We should use the budgeting process as a tool to vision and prioritize the services we provide the community. We must find ways to increase revenue, cut expenses and optimize processes.
There are educated town folk who are knowledgeable in this area and willing to step up to the plate and assist in this process. I am one of them. I suggest you immediately appoint a temporary financial committee to assist you, the Town Council and Staff in creating this new process.
Specifically, I am recommending:

That we adopt a short term budget (perhaps first quarter fiscal year 2009/10) only to hold us over until a budget overhaul can be completed, implemented, and adopted.

That we form a temporary financial committee to join the Town Council and Staff during restructuring.
The meetings are facilitated and focused.

That we review sample budgets from other communities.
As a positive example I have contacted Park City regarding this.

I envision it will take 6 to 8 half day workshops – if we all come prepared.

We create the look, feel, and process for our future budget.

Then the proposed 2010/11 budget; within this new model, can be presented.
I refer you to the Park City, UT budget. It is one example of several great town budgets. It has several components which I like. You can find it at:
I would like to specifically point out Page 17 of the Park City, UT “Citizens Budget” and their timeline for the budget process; the analysis of their revenue mix; as well as their Benchmarking and peer resort sections. I was privileged to work briefly with the Park City Town in 2000 as a Steamboat Springs Representative when they were in their transitional phase.
I called our Town Manager Friday and spoke to our Assistant Town Manager. I feel she was open to this suggestion and might welcome the support in transition. I have also listed below a handful of the many community supporters of this idea.
Thank you for your time. I hope this cultivates an understanding of the importance of this issue and prompts you to take action. I welcome any and all questions or comments and look forward to working with you as a volunteer on this endeavor.
D.L. Pierrel
Deborah Pierrel,
Community Member and Airport Commissioner
CC: All Commissions
Mammoth Lakes Chamber of Commerce
Local Media
Supporters include: Jim Demetriades, Ward Jones, John Vereuck, Tom Cage, Joyce Turner, Maggie Thompson and Dr. Craig Schraiger.

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