Streamlining reporting code eliminates redundancies, improves efficiency

During her first year as a County Councilmember in 2016, Claudia Balducci noticed that every Friday her inbox would receive a mini-flood of reports being forwarded by the Clerk’s Office. The reports were prepared by County employees in response to a variety of requirements in the County Code.  Some of the reports provided valuable information that Councilmembers used to make policy decisions. Others, well, their usefulness was less clear.

In 2017, Councilmember Balducci asked Council staff to review the entire code and determine how many ongoing reporting requirements existed and whether or not the reports were useful in the Council’s work.

“This was a New Year’s Resolution for me,” she said. “I wanted to be sure that we were getting only those reports we needed and that County employees weren’t spending time writing or reviewing reports that we don’t use.”

Council staff reviewed all of the code, which exceeds 700 pages, and identified 119 ongoing reporting requirements. Some of these requirements involved more than one report per year and some were every other year. In total, the Code required between 130 and 135 reports annually, depending on the year. Staff evaluated each report to determine if it was used in their work and Councilmembers reviewed the list to see which reports should be kept and which did not need to be keptfor decision making.

The review showed that quite a few of the reporting requirements weren’t needed.  In some cases, circumstances had changed and the reports were no longer relevant. For instance, there were three reports required from committees that no longer exist. In other cases, the information was readily available elsewhere.  Regional Animal Services of King County, for example, publishes data about the number of animals served on its website so a report is redundant.

At its last meeting in 2017, the Council approved an ordinance that eliminated the unneeded reporting requirements, which translated into 40 fewer reports a year. In addition, it changed the frequency of or combined what had previously been 42 separate reports a year into 14.  In total, the updated Code requires County employees to prepare about half as many reports in 2018 as in 2017.

This bit of housekeeping is an important piece of running the government. As Councilmember Balducci concluded, “The County Code sets the rules for the government and keeping it up-to-date and relevant ensures that we are spending our time serving the public rather than serving the bureaucracy.”