Kay’s influence is notable

Published 1:24 am Friday, April 19, 2013

It’s Washington’s loss that City Manager Josh Kay is leaving next month to take a position in the private sector in his native South Carolina.

In the short time that he’s been city manager of Washington — he started the job August 2011 — Kay has made a difference, especially in improving the city’s fiscal health and reorganizing city operations. His proposed city budget for the upcoming 2013-2014 fiscal year, which begins July 1, is a prime example of his fiscal acumen.

The proposed budget keeps the property-tax rate at its current level of 50 cents per $100 valuation. It keeps electric, water and sewer rates at their current levels.

Kay helped develop a business plan for Warren Field Airport, which had been operating in the red for many years. The city has been working toward reducing fiscal losses at the airport with the hope of making it self-sufficient.

The council charged Kay with making the airport as self-supporting as possible, with an aim of it eventually making a profit.

Kay’s proposed budget indicates the city-owned Warren Field Airport’s fiscal picture is improving somewhat. The proposed budget shows that the airport fund will receive no transfer of funds from the general fund, but will use $70,675 from its fund balance to balance its proposed budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

 “The airport has a healthy fund balance, and we’re zeroing out the general-fund transfer in the airport currently,” Kay said at a recent council meeting.

That’s evidence he took the council’s charge to him and did something about it — more action than talk.

One of the first tasks Kay took on when he become city manager in August 2011 was reorganizing city government. In February 2012, Kay unveiled his reorganization strategy that he said could save the city $1.2 million annually.

Kay said the motive behind the reorganization is to improve city services and provide them in a more-efficient manner.

That reorganization plan, approved by the council, may be Kay’s most-lasting effect on city government.

The reorganization strategy calls for the city to fully analyze the services it offers and eliminate those services that are not fully or efficiently utilized or expand services that are most important to the city’s residents and customers. The strategy combines existing city departments into four departments: police and fire services, community and cultural services, public services and administrative services. The reorganization focuses the city’s resources into those four departments.

Although the reorganization will bring about a reduction in city employees, it appears that reduction will be somewhat minimal — no wholesale layoffs or terminations of employment.

In the short time he’s been with the city, Kay is leaving it in better shape than he found it.

Let’s hope the next city manager can expand on what Kay has started.