Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Clay Sheriff Starts Programs to Cut Costs; Employees Offered Incentives for Ideas That Save Money, and for Losing Weight

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Clay Sheriff Starts Programs to Cut Costs; Employees Offered Incentives for Ideas That Save Money, and for Losing Weight

Article excerpt

Byline: BRAD SCHMIDT

Clay County Sheriff Rick Beseler has implemented two cost-cutting programs modeled after principles of private industry that he predicts will save taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.

A proud penny-pincher who campaigned last year on a promise to trim departmental fat, Beseler said his policies encourage innovation through incentive-based programs. One program offers employees up to $1,000 for any cost-saving idea that becomes departmental policy. The other program encourages employee weight loss by offering a cruise to The Bahamas as an incentive.

Beseler said government needs to "start doing some outside-of-the-box thinking" and research ideas that benefit taxpayers. Any money saved through his program will be returned to the county, he said, or used to absorb offsetting costs.

"Innovation is what we're really after," he said. "There's a better way to do it and a cheaper way to do it."

Beseler's incentive-based programs are virtually non-existent in Florida government, according to a statewide sheriff's group. But County Commissioner Harold Rutledge wonders whether offering financial incentives to government employees is necessary.

"It's the public's money," said Rutledge, a former Sheriff's Office sergeant. "If we save money, should it go to the employee or the people who are paying taxes?"

Gary VanLandingham, director of the Florida Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability, said that question has come up time and again since government started implementing such programs in the 1970s.

VanLandingham said others have argued that employees should make their work environment more effective and do not need rewards for doing their job. But he said incentive programs are a generally accepted practice, provided an estimate of cost savings is reviewed independently.

Beseler's first program, aimed at administrative efficiency, pays employees a minimum of $25 and a maximum of $1,000 for any cost-saving measure implemented.

So far, the Sheriff's Office has adopted two suggestions out of about two dozen.

One of those called for reducing the amount spent on specialty details by about $8,600 a year -- a savings of roughly 5 percent. …

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