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County controller's annual report illustrates cost savings to commissioners

By Tom De Martini, WFMZ.com Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Apr 09 2014 11:18:23 PM CDT
Lehigh County Commissioners
ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

Lehigh County Controller Glenn Eckhart told county commissioners Wednesday night that, while short on manpower, his office continues to point out areas where spending can be contained.

Eckhart made remarks and took questions from Lehigh County Commissioners during the presentation of the "Office of the Controller's Annual Report for 2013."

The controller's office conducts assessments of management performance and program results of any Lehigh County department or agency to evaluate the efficiency and economy of the agency's or department's use of taxpayer funds.

The majority of the booklet provided to commissioners detailed specific audits, which are also available for inspection on the county website.

"We try to point out areas of findings where we should look to save money and we're doing a good job," Eckhart said.

Eckhart cited an example of new accountant hires who replace staff who have retired or left the county.

"You'll see them come budget time," Eckhart said. "One has completed a CPA and another is halfway through. They're coming in at a lower salary level, but they are highly skilled."

Eckhart said that the use of interns is another method in keeping staffing costs down.

"We squeeze as much as we can get. That's what priority-based budgeting will do," he said.

Eckhart lamented the fact that the lack of manpower in his office doesn't allow more performance-based audits throughout the year.

"We're struggling. We can't do it with the manpower we have," he said.

But, commissioner Scott Ott wondered aloud why the board doesn't hear from Eckhart on a more regular basis.

"Are you communicating with the board enough? Will we only see you if your hair is on fire? Will we know if something is wrong? You're like the bad guy looming in the background," Ott said.

"I sent plenty of e-mail communications to the board," Eckhart said.

In other business, commissioners heard a first reading of an ordinance which would change the name of Lehigh County Prison to Lehigh County Jail.

"This properly identifies the jail as place that properly defines the length of the stays of our guests," said commissioner David Jones.

The proposed bill will also eliminate confusion regarding the type of correctional facility when the county applies for grants.

In a related matter, commissioners voted to enter into a professional services agreement with Justice Benefits, Inc. of Dallas, Texas to administer a federal program that will reimburse the county up to $85,000 per year in costs associated with housing undocumented inmates. 

Lehigh County Controller, Glenn Eckhart, told county commissioners Wednesday night that while short on manpower, his office continues to point out areas where spending can be contained.

 Eckhart made remarks and took questions from Lehigh County Commissioners during the presentation of the "Office of the Controller's Annual Report for 2013."

The controller's office conducts assessments of management performance and program results of any Lehigh County department or agency to evaluate the efficiency and economy of the agency's or department's use of taxpayer funds.

The majority of the booklet provided to commissioners detailed specific audits, which are also available for inspection on the county website.

"We try to point out areas of findings where we should look to save money and we're doing a good job," Eckhart said.

Eckhart cited an example of new accountant hires who replace staff who have retired or left the county.

"You'll see them come budget time," Eckhart said. "One has completed a CPA and another is halfway through. They're coming in at a lower salary level, but they are highly skilled."

Eckhart said that the use of interns is another method in keeping staffing costs down.

"We squeeze as much as we can get. That's what priority-based budgeting will do," he said.

Eckhart lamented the fact that the lack of manpower in his office doesn't allow more performance-based audits throughout the year.

"We're struggling. We can't do it with the manpower we have," he said.

But, commissioner Scott Ott wondered aloud why the board doesn't hear from Eckhart on a more regular basis.

"Are you communicating with the board enough? Will we only see you if your hair is on fire? Will we know if something is wrong? You're like the bad guy looming in the background," Ott said.

"I sent plenty of e-mail communications to the board," Eckhart said.

In other business, commissioners heard a first reading of an ordinance which would change the name of Lehigh County Prison to Lehigh County Jail.

"This properly identifies the jail as place that properly defines the length of the stays of our guests," said commissioner David Jones.

The proposed bill will also eliminate confusion regarding the type of correctional facility when the county applies for grants.

In a related matter, commissioners voted to enter into a professional services agreement with Justice Benefits, Inc. of Dallas, Texas to administer a federal program that will reimburse the county up to $85,000 per year in costs associated with housing undocumented inmates.