Improving efficiency and cutting costs of county operations were key planks in Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald"s campaign.
In policy statements he posted online, he pledged to save money and increase accountability through a data-based system called CountyStat.
The system measures departments performances and compares them to national best practices and local goals.
"Under the Cuyahoga CountyStat system, departments will develop, measure, track and report specific performance measures that detail service quality and responsiveness," he said in a policy statement.
FitzGerald dreamed up CountyStat based on an organizational approach New York police enacted in 1995. That, called CompStat (short for computer statistics), mapped crime and identified problems that police administrators worked with local precincts to address.
Baltimore adopted the idea, calling it CitiStat. The system even appeared in the HBO drama, "The Wire,” of which FitzGerald was a fan. The system is free, since it doesn"t require any licenses or software.
FitzGerald used CitiStat as mayor of Lakewood. Now he has put the system to work at the county level.
Each quarter, each county agency presents data to FitzGerald and a team of administrators. They compare Cuyahoga numbers to best practices and benchmarks in other counties, in and outside of Ohio.
They also report their objectives, which plans and timelines for how to achieve them.
Jennifer Scofield, who heads the tracking program, describes it as a nudging process. "It"s prompting us to say where are those areas where we can make some improvements.”
Next year, the metrics will be published on the county web site in a format FitzGerald calls CountyStat dashboards.
Recently the tracking system was used to track use of sick days.
The computer-aided system documented widespread abuse of sick leave. Workers in the Department of Senior and Adult Services had the worst record last year, averaging nearly 15 days out of the office.
County managers have begun firing workers who continue to call in sick after running out of accrued leave. Other employees have been disciplined for abusing the leave.
It"s too soon to know the cost savings from the program, but based on the implementation of the program, we can set the Fitz-O-Meter for this promise to In the Works.