SILO BUDGETING & PROGRAMMING – A Failed Approach to Improving New York City Finances & The Quality of Life of its Citizens

I can hear the words of my mother as clearly today as when she spoke them 60 years ago when I would play with my cousins: “Be sure to share with each other and enjoy yourselves.” The ‘enjoy yourselves had many meanings, however, one of them was to use the resources of each other to have an enjoyable experience and be successful.

And, so, my years in the early 2000s as Commissioner of the Department of Youth and Community Development , along with my concurrent appointment to the Central Board of Education (Appointed by Mayor Giuliani) were always filled with the memory of my mom. I realized early on in my work, to assure productive and quality after school programs, to manage the largest youth employment program in the nation, and to encourage communities to create youth programs which could be life changing experiences to the most vulnerable, I could not get this done solely through silo budget and programming of my agency, rather, to make a difference in the lives of our young people, the Board of Education would need to be intimately involved in my agency work and the city would need to institute a formal cooperative link among city agencies.

If you look at the city agencies historically and even today on an organizational chart, you will clearing see the impressive number of agencies we have, the depth of programming which exists on behalf of the citizens of our city, however, absent is any evidence that agencies by policy share programs and budget to better achieve citywide performance outcomes. An example of this is the FY 2015 operating budget of the New York City Department of Education ($21 Billion) and the Department of Youth and Community Development ($580 Million), not to mention the budgets of Housing ($718 Million) and NYPD ($5.15 Billion). Each one of these agencies (many others apply as well), have programs for youth. Are there valued outcomes which could be better achieved if combined resources and funding were used by the city’s  administration?  I believe the answer is yes. How can we achieve it?

Under the current process of citywide administration, agencies are divided up and report to designated Deputy Mayors. The Deputy Mayors’ responsibilities are to assure the goals and objectives of the agencies are on target. Little to no analysis is executed to have commissioners of agencies work together to develop inter-agency solution sets to improve our city finances and the quality of life of its citizens. I believe the task to get this accomplished goes beyond the ability of Deputy Mayors and Commissioners in the current structure of city agency management.

It is TIME to call upon the Mayor to appoint a Czar of Inter-Agency Accountability. The Czar would begin by examining agency programming and determining where the cross links of services exist and what funding streams should be support these links, and which funding streams may be redundant.  Once established, the Mayor, in collaboration with the City Council, can reflect upon a change in service delivery and better fund those services so our citizens can have a more perfect city to live in. If you took this process in steps and started with the Department of Education, Youth and Community Development, and Housing, imagine the valued outcomes which could be achieved with student performances if what was being taught in school was reinforced by after school programs and other educational programs sponsored by Housing?

Our city budget continues to grow and we continue to see quality of life liabilities in our five boroughs. This must change. I suggest again we abandon the silo mentality of funding and operations of our city agencies and advocate for a new and aggressive re-alignment of cooperative and shared budgeting and programming. Our future budgets should reflect allocations of dollars to achievable outcomes and demonstrate how agencies share in that responsibility and accountability. A Czar of Inter-Agency Accountability can give the Mayor the traction needed to better bond costs to outcomes across the entire spectrum of city operations.

Mayor, perhaps you can tell your Deputy Mayors and Commissioners at the next administration meeting: “Be sure to share with each other and enjoy yourselves.”

Dr. Jerry Cammarata is currently the Chief Operating Officer and Dean of Student Affairs at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine – Middletown, New York.