All things political: It’s budget season and time to focus on state gov expenses

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All things political: It’s budget season and time to focus on state gov expenses

Over the last decade, I have owned three different top-notch restaurants, two in the city, and one, Aldea, received a Michelin Star several years in a row.

With that experience I am uniquely qualified to share the secret of making $1 million dollars in the restaurant business. Just start with $2 million!
All joking aside, turning a profit in this business, and others is a real challenge.

Competition is fierce, margins are razor thin, and it’s difficult to raise prices.

To turn a profit you must keep a close eye on expenses, because every dollar saved goes directly to the bottom line.
For example, instead of regularly purchasing fresh flowers I installed beautiful dried flower arrangements. I shopped insurance premiums yearly and constantly tried to pay invoices to vendors quickly in order to receive a small, pre-negotiated discount.

Through measures like these, the goal was to save $50,000 a year in expenses.

In the restaurant business, that is roughly the same as the profit from selling 12,000 additional martinis. That’s a lot of martinis.
I use the same mindset for every government entity and non-profit charity I have been involved with. As a trustee on the Roslyn School Board, we refinanced our debt, and utilized energy performance contracts to save electricity.

In addition, we regularly push for at least three bids every time we go out to purchase goods and services.

As a director on the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, I advocated for accountability on legal fees and made sure all county RFPs and bids were added to the New York State Contract Reporter, to encourage greater participation and transparency in the procurement process.

As a board member of All Hands and Hearts, an international disaster relief agency, we relentlessly discuss how to drive down costs, so we have more money to provide services.
I bring all this up because New York State budget season is here.

And, instead of engaging in meaningful dialog about how to run state government more efficiently, the discussion is centered around busting the self-imposed 2 percent tax cap on a $163 billion spending plan.

Taxpayers need to know their hard earned money is being used efficiently.
Recently I read about the scandals from the 1980’s, when the U.S. Government routinely grossly overpaid for commodity type items, such as the $37 screw, $640 toilet seat, and the $7,600 coffee maker.

As I remain involved in the public sector I am seeing first hand, nothing much has changed.
New York State desperately needs to put together a department by department task force on cost control.

I am fully aware the governor has encouraged local governments to share services to drive down costs. I applaud this! Still, the question remains, what can New York State do in its own house?

Why don’t the state Assembly and Senate have specific committees on government efficiency?
I suggest each branch of government encourage New York State government employees to make recommendations on cost-saving efficiencies.

If an employee idea is used that employee should be awarded an extra vacation day.

With more than 300,000 New York State government employees there would be endless suggestions on creative ways to save.
Each New York State division of government should bring in consultants to examine operations and make the findings public.

Grant Thornton did that almost seven years ago for Nassau County, but somehow none of this thorough and lengthy report’s suggestions have been implemented.
Politicians are reactive by nature. Why speak up about a problem if it’s not in the public consciousness?

I can assure you, as budgets continue to get squeezed, and the economy starts to slow down, we will hear about inefficiencies in New York State Government that will take our breath away.

Then, elected officials will be forced to call for an investigation, but it will already be too late.

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