Botetourt County Administrator Gary Larrowe announced a broad reorganization and reduction in force (RIF) last week as a money-saving move that’s based on the county’s five-year budget projections.
The move is reducing the number of county positions, but only one person is losing a job— Economic Development Project Manager Lisa Moorman Sumpter, who was hired in the fall of 2011 as Tourism Coordinator.
The tourism position was moved into the new Economic Development Department last year and converted to the Project Manager position after the county joined the Roanoke Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau (RVCVB) and turned over much of its tourism-related marketing to that organization.
The county increased its transient occupancy tax (hotel/motel tax) last year and designated those funds for direct marketing by the RVCVB that now does business as Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge.
The decision to eliminate the Project Manager position also provides funds for the proposed new Agriculture Development position the Board of Supervisors General Fund Budget Committee is recommending. That position will be in the Economic Development Department.
In a March 23 memorandum to department heads and the county constitutional offices, Larrowe explained in detail the changes that affect most of the county departments.
Last week, the Herald reported on changes to the Fire and EMS Department, and that department is included in the memorandum.
Larrowe also combined Parks & Recreation and Maintenance permanently. He had combined those departments last year on a temporary basis.
When asked about the changes, Larrowe said in an email, “The staffing changes were difficult to make; however, with deep thought and concern for the future of Botetourt County I feel confident that the changes will yield a return on investment well above any expectation.
“It is not an easy burden to change the lives of individuals; however, through the re-organization/reduction in force (RIF) process I tried to reduce the direct impact on individual employees as much as possible.
“The future is bright in Botetourt,” he added.
Larrowe’s full memorandum to the county department heads explains the reorganization and RIF. It follows:
I first wish to provide a large thank you to each and every Botetourt County employee because of the welcome and provision of support to me over the past 14 months.
I truly love this community, employees and the citizens we serve and am working hard to provide opportunities for us to move forward as a Highly Performing Organization under the direction of the excellent elected leadership of the Board of Supervisors.
As you know, the Board of Supervisors has an aggressive vision for positive development that has included the job creation for new, quality jobs and to grow and to diversify the County’s tax base, but also for more affordable and different types of housing, a continued emphasis on quality education, an increase in using agriculture as a larger economic driver and development around Exit 150 as the VDOT project progresses.
However even with the growth, challenges certainly do exist as we place resources and talent in needed positions. Many great things are happening in Botetourt. We have been truly blessed with having a community that is on a growth trajectory with jobs being created and investment being made as a result of activities that have happened over the past year.
We have also been provided opportunities with the redevelopment of Exit 150 and the need for additional housing that will lead to additional population, additional students in the school system and anticipated increase in commercial development.
The success is awesome, however it has also brought challenges as well. As a way to mitigate negative effects of the growth, this past fall I implemented a hiring freeze and a discretionary spending freeze.
Both of these measures were done as a direct response to the 5-year financial analysis that was conducted with regard to what the financial future of Botetourt County looks like while living on the real estate tax rates we currently have.
This analysis included obligations we have with the new industries as well as previous long-term obligations.
And as a result, we know the future budgets will be exceptionally tight for the next 3-5 years. To assist with these challenges, I held meetings with department heads and set the stage for the future on an individual department basis. In these meetings we discussed the financial forecast, the need to reduce comp time liability, overtime needs and the need to reduce budget requests moving forward.
I also shared that we were planning to participate with a regional compensation study to evaluate our compensation levels and work to correct disparities in a phased approach from operational savings as resources are made available.
The question was asked, “How can we carry on excellent services in potentially different ways so as to mitigate the future financial challenges and organizational structure?”
As a direct result of work by departments, I am delighted to say that recently made departmental budget requests were more than $430,000 less this year than last year. This is a testament to the work of departments in trimming budgets before bringing them to the review process.
I see this as a huge step in the correct direction and applaud the efforts of the entire organization. Besides changes and developments happening in the community, we are making changes within our organization that will allow us to move into the future with the least impact to staff possible while meeting the Board’s goals.
The purpose of these changes are to help us continue to improve as an organization and as professionals deliver the best possible services available in the most cost effective and efficient manner.
Recreation and Facilities Department
As you know, not long after I came to Botetourt, I was faced with hiring a new Director of Parks and Recreation since the position had been left open. And then quickly transferred Maintenance operations to Parks and Recreation on a temporary basis.
Due to the excellent work of Jim Farmer and Jay Ratcliffe, our recently hired maintenance manager Jamie Hurt, and assistant manager Billy Warnock, I am making that transfer permanent.
As a result, the Parks and Recreation Department is, effective immediately, renamed to the Recreation and Facilities Department and Jim will be making the operational transition on a gradual basis as time and resources permits.
The new name better reflects the role and responsibilities of the department and will provide for a new platform to work from. Jim Farmer will continue to serve as department director and Jamie will continue to lead and provide day-to-day management of maintenance operations, including custodial services.
I have great confidence in Jim and his department to assist Botetourt in various needs that fall under their purview.
To better respond to continually evolving fire and emergency medical services demands in the community and to improve our overall performance and take better advantage of individual employee’s particular skills and strengths several organizational changes took place earlier this week:
- The two Deputy Chief and the Battalion Chief Training positions were abolished using the Reduction in Force (RIF) process.
- Three Battalion Chief – Operations positions were created to have a “County Chief” available on a 24-hour basis
- One Battalion Chief – Administration and Support was created to continue excellent support for the system with grants, LODA efforts and the like
- Individuals were reassigned to newly created positions for better and more efficient use of talent and organizational structure.
- New position of Training Captain was created to support training needs and will be advertised internal before going out on the street.
- Individuals in these new roles will work together to coordinate the responsibilities of the various activities they have expertise and be available to the system as needed. By taking this action, we are ensuring that our most experienced and knowledgeable response managers are available and on-scene at all times. This information was shared with the Fire/EMS Commission this week with positive responses.
Children Services (CSA)
The vacant part-time secretary position will be abolished to become a more efficient organization.
As a way to respond to current Economic Development needs and to move toward supporting agriculture as an Industry in Botetourt County, the following actions have taken place:
- The open position of full-time (FT) Secretary has been transitioned to a part-time (PT) position and will be advertised ASAP. Until this position is filled the Department of Recreation and Facilities will continue to share a PT support position.
- The open position of Communication Specialist has been abolished using the RIF process.
- The position of Project Manager was abolished using the RIF process. It is very unfortunate that the person serving in this position has lost her job, however a normal severance has been granted for RIF positions and assistance in any way possible will be provided.
- A new position of an Agriculture Development Officer will be advertised next week. This position will drive the efforts of Agricultural Economic Development and will be working directly with Ballast Point on their agricultural opportunities as an example along with working with K-12, Community College, VA Cooperative Extension, industry and individuals.
Historically, oversight and management of county departments and their operations have been divided between the County Administrator and Deputy/Assistant County Administrators.
To promote and fulfill the Board of Supervisors’ vision, I am required to spend a great deal of my time away from the office and in the community and across the region (and state). My primary focus needs to be on economic development and community and intergovernmental relations to assist in making connections for our growth and the increase of the tax base.
I will continue to provide high level direction and oversight of all county functions and operations, however the Deputy County Administrator will be responsible for day-to-day operations, implementation and management under my directions in collaboration with all of you.
David Moorman has made it very clear to me over the past 14 months that his intent to work closely with each of you to become a more unified and high performance management team is his primary focus. He has my full support and I ask that you give him yours as well.
Over the past year more and more responsibilities have been placed on Human Resources (HR) and the office has stepped up to the challenge in every instance. As we move forward, I expect (HR) to be even more involved in decisions associated with employees, especially the compensation study and implementation.
I know that you work with the Finance Department on a daily basis, however we will continue to look for cost saving measures and Tony Zerrila will be a key player in this arena. I would ask that you continue bringing ideas for savings to Tony and his fine team.
Change, no matter how good it is and how great the outcomes, can always disrupt and make folks uncomfortable at times. I ask for your patience and your support and assistance as these changes are implemented.
If you have specific questions or concerns, please reach out to me personally so that I may assist in working through the entire process. Please expect additional tweaks as we move through the process, however I hope those to be minor in nature.
I do plan to schedule more meetings as we have had in the past to assist with avoiding unintentional consequences and assisting with a smooth transition into the future.
I want to make sure everyone understands the recent actions, reasons and direction because everyone has roles and responsibilities that will be impacted by the various changes. Please understand that these changes have been done in a methodical thought process and are in no way as a result of performance of individuals.
These changes have been done to assist with budget and to make the organization a more Highly Performing Organization while directing resources to priorities of the Board of Supervisors.
Thank you and God Bless Botetourt.