Tough Decisions Made Easy(ier)

Most of us have just finished “running the numbers,” which is code for setting the annual budget. If you’re like me, you do this in more than one facet of your life.

I run three budgets: PRB Magazine, my family budget and one for my son’s travel baseball team.

All of them take lots of time, lots of thought and lots of compromise – and none of them come into compliance without a fight.

As you well know, a big part of this process is reviewing each expense, determining its validity and, if it’s valid, trying to find a way to replace its function with a process or technology that gives us the same or better result more efficiently (which is code for cheaper).

After 20-years of working through this process, I’m still amazed at all the “aha” moments we have – all the times we realize that an expense is really no longer valid. We’ve been doing it because, well, we always do it. But, upon deeper reflection, it really doesn’t serve a defined purpose or has become redundant due to a technological solution we implemented somewhere else.

Interestingly, of the two types of solutions – adding a vendor/technology or cutting an item – the last one is always the hardest. Why is that? Shouldn’t it be the easiest? All we need to do is say, “No, we don’t need that item.” But we rarely do.

I’ll give a good example from the budget I find the hardest to balance – my son’s baseball team.

I finally came around to the fact that I was spending too much on apparel. As it turns out, we can turn up at a game without matching bat bags and helmets and they’ll still let us play.

Now that I see this in writing, I’m ashamed at how much agony I went through to get to this simple conclusion.

And, I know why. I’m too emotionally invested. Because I’m responsible for running the team, I want them to have the best of everything. It’s a sign of my own competence.

Talk about dumb.

Once I realized a batting helmet wasn’t going to ever hit a single or drive in a run, I realized what was really important, I calmed down.

I bring this up because our feature this month profiles the work of Amy McMillan, Executive Director of the Genesee County Parks and Recreation Committee, headquartered in Flint, MI who took her budget and beat it into shape with the help of her entire staff. She found a way to remove emotional bias (like my apparent affinity for matching batting helmets), improve service and cut $167,832 of expenses saving 16,700 hours of labor. In the process, she saved jobs in an area of the country that is ravaged by high unemployment.

This issue features a smorgasbord of ideas you can use immediately to improve your agency’s cash flow – and it provides lots of ideas for how to go about finding creative solutions in your own department. Of course, we also feature lots of other goodies and, if you want even more, check our new Web site at It’s updated daily with news and ideas you can use right now.


Rodney J. Auth