From the County Manager Column from Oct. 5, 2021

Guest column: Information and Public Records 2022-23 proposed budget

From the County Manager

This week’s guest column from Deputy County Manager Karen Francois highlights the 2022-23 proposed budget for Information and Public Records that was presented to the board of commissioners on Sept. 14. This is the third in our series of articles highlighting the proposed budgets for each of our service teams. - Ryan

I appreciate this opportunity to share more about our 2022-23 proposed budget. Our Sept. 14 presentation to the board highlighted each of our departments – Information & Public Records Administration; Communications & Public Relations; County Assessor; Information Services; and Property Tax, Records & Election Services – and our work together as a service team. As we like to say in Information and Public Records: We are IPR!

Watch the Sept. 14 board presentation

Topline snapshot

The IPR proposed budget begins on page 120 of the budget book. As the smallest service team, we make up 8.4% of the county’s overall budget. We’re proposing a total budget of $65 million for 2022 and $70.5 million for 2023. Our proposed budget includes new investments and re-allocations of staff and resources to support the Enterprise Services function that consists of our Service Centers and Navigators as well as funding to expand investments in our Information Technology Portfolio. We will also continue holding seven positions open – part of the strategy that we and other service teams used in 2021 to meet budget targets following the 0% property tax levy adjustment. The 2022-23 IPR proposed budget includes resource re-allocations and division realignment to ensure critical service team outcomes are achieved while minimizing incremental increases to the budget.

Areas of focus

Continuing the advancement of our Enterprise Services function is a key aspect of our proposed budget following the county’s strategic priority of Residents First: Effective, Efficient and Accessible Operations. This effort, which was implemented rather early in the pandemic, establishes dedicated Service Centers in physical environments and expanded virtual and phone options staffed with Navigators who help residents and other customers resolve questions and connect - and interconnect - with programs and services across the county. Although now operationalized and enhanced within the IPR Service Team in the proposed budget, as a countywide function Enterprise Services – and our residents - benefit from being shaped and maintained in close partnership with the other service teams. 

View March 16 workshop video and materials about Enterprise Services

The use of technology for remote work during the pandemic increased demand for Information Services across all areas of the county. CIO Rich Christensen calls the Information Services department “The Great Enabler” – and the team has proved this throughout the pandemic by nimbly pivoting with lightning speed to meet and support the needs of our new work environment. As we continue to think about how we work within the context of flexible work and returning to our workspaces, our reliance on technology for service delivery and support increases and requires continued and increased investment in periodic replacement, upgrades and new equipment and applications.

Finally, the pandemic has underscored the critical demand for Communications & Public Relations services to deliver accurate information quickly. In IPR, we are adding capacity in the Government Relations and Communications areas, as well as support for our Open Data Program primarily through some transfers and re-allocations of positions and budget.

Although these three areas are certainly priorities in this budget cycle, all of our work in IPR has critical countywide impacts on how we deliver services to our residents and other customers as well as how we fund the work to provide those critical services. These include the assessment and valuation of more than 160,000 Ramsey County properties across the county, as well as the collection, receipting and distribution to our cities of around $2.8 billion each year in property taxes and other revenues. This work will bring in nearly 43% of all county revenues in 2022 - so the work of our Assessor and Property Tax areas clearly have critical countywide impacts.

We in IPR will also continue to have greater focus on community engagement and racial equity in this budget cycle through efforts to racially diversify our staff to reflect the rich diversity in Ramsey County and build race and cultural awareness among our team to better serve all residents and other customers. Following our mission, vision, goals and values, we are more committed than ever to ensure countywide community participation in the decision-making that impacts the lives of all our residents.

I agree with my colleague Deputy County Manager Johanna Berg who said last week that this budget was not easy to create and reflects necessary prioritization to balance our strategic priorities with our budget targets. It is, however, a budget that reflects a promising vision for the future of Ramsey County.

We have a great budget team and I am so thankful for all of their hard work to bring the proposed 2022-23 Information and Public Records budget together. I would like to recognize our controller Tracy West especially, and the team of professionals that she worked with day-in-and-day-out from both our IPR budget action team and Finance.

Finally, I’ll use this opportunity to also thank our entire IPR team who have done an amazing job on behalf of our residents and customers throughout the pandemic. We have asked so much of staff during one of the most trying times in our country’s history, and they have risen to the challenge. Now we are asking once again to rise to the additional challenges of the next two years. I have confidence in our resilience and fortitude and commitment to public service and we will rise again to these new challenges. I can’t imagine a better group of people to work with in service of the people of Ramsey County… We Are IPR!

-Karen Francois