Inter-Departmental Correspondence

County Manager’s Office



May 21, 2009


June 9, 2009







Honorable Board of Supervisors



Reyna Farrales, Deputy County Manager
Donna Vaillancourt, Human Resources Director



San Mateo County STARS – Employee Suggestion Awards Program




Adopt a Resolution approving STARS Employee Suggestion Awards


Presentation of Commendations honoring STARS Award recipients



Commitment: Responsive, effective and collaborative government

Goal 21: County employees understand, support and integrate the County vision and goals into their delivery of services


The San Mateo County STARS Employee Suggestion Awards Program contributes to this commitment and goal by recognizing and rewarding employees that provide innovative and creative ideas to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of County operations in alignment with the County’s Shared Vision 2010.



In December 2007, the Board of Supervisors held a Budget Study Session on the multi-year plan to eliminate the County’s structural budget deficit. During this session, the Board directed staff to engage employees and labor organizations in the development of budget solutions. As a result, monthly meetings were established with labor organizations and a County “Budget News” intranet site was launched to provide employees with budget updates and an opportunity for them to submit suggestions via the intranet. Employee Budget Workgroups, comprised of County staff and labor representatives, were also formed or expanded to review, analyze and recommend viable employee suggestions. These workgroups include Cost Containment, Workload and Retention, Health Redesign, Salary and Benefits, Fiscal Officers Technical Team, Green Team, and Revenue Enhancements.


At one of the monthly labor/management meetings, it was recommended that a formal program be established to solicit and reward employees for their suggestions. In response, a new award category was added to the San Mateo County STARS Awards Program to recognize outstanding employee suggestions. This program, which was initially approved by the Board in 2006 and includes Program Performance, Green, Customer Service and (the newly created) Employee Suggestions award categories, was established to recognize teams, programs and individuals that successfully incorporate Outcome-Based Management (OBM) to meet program goals, demonstrate innovation and collaboration, implement customer service strategies and achieve excellent results.

On March 3, 2009, the Board of Supervisors recognized several teams that received STARS Program Performance, Customer Service and Green Awards. The Employee Suggestion Awards were not presented on this date given that the suggestions were in the process of being evaluated by the Employee Budget Workgroups.



The STARS Employee Suggestion Awards Program was launched in October 2008. The County received a total 122 employee suggestions. Of these suggestions, 54% or 66 indicated that they were interested in having their suggestion considered for an award. Suggestions that are eligible for consideration include those that result in reduction in costs, enhanced revenues, increased productivity and/or opportunities to provide better service. Award amounts total $50 for indirect awards and 5% of savings, to a maximum of $5,000, for direct awards. When submitting their suggestions, employees provided a summary of their suggestion, how their idea would benefit those we serve and any projected savings or revenue enhancements.


A few of the suggestions received were department-specific and these suggestions were sent to respective departments for analysis. All other suggestions were referred to the Employee Budget Workgroups for review and recommendation. An initial review was conducted on each of the suggestions that addressed the following: whether the suggestion was already implemented or currently being pursued; estimated magnitude of positive budget impact; feasibility/viability of implementing suggestion; and impact on operations and staff. Below is a summary of the review process:

→ → →

Suggestion Received via the Intranet

Suggestion forwarded to

Department (if department-specific) or

Countywide Workgroup

Viable Suggestions Referred to Fiscal Officers Technical Team

Awards and/or Multi-Year Budget Solutions


After review by the Employee Budget Workgroups, viable suggestions were referred to the Fiscal Officers Technical Team for cost-benefit analysis. The following suggestions are being recommended for awards and/or policy implementation (where feasible):

STARS Awards Nominees

Award Recipient


Impacted Department(s)

Type of Award

Award Amount

Patrice Christensen, Health System

Eliminate printed agendas for meetings - use flip charts, white boards or electronic displays.




Jason Gordon,
First 5

Use direct deposit for travel and other reimbursements, eliminating paper checks.

Countywide/ Controller’s Office



Cathy Baker,
Human Services Agency

Timers/light sensors on parking lot lights; adjust timers to account for day light savings time.

Public Works



Diana Chung,
Health System

Encourage webinar meetings instead of in-person meetings, especially for document review or canned trainings.




Lorraine Guerrero, Superior Court

Default printers to fast draft.




Michelle Ladcani, Human Services Agency

Increase Voluntary Time Off (VTO) options to encourage employee participation in the VTO Program




* Employees participating in VTO are currently eligible to sign up for a 1%, 2%, 5%, 10%, 15% or 20% reduction in work hours and salary. Beginning FY 2009-10, VTO options will also include 3% and 4%.


The Board Finance and Operations Committee approved the selections at its May 19, 2009 meeting. The Committee also requested that County staff expand efforts to go “paperless” by increasing the use of technology and increase energy efficiencies by adjusting timers/light sensors inside all County facilities.


Attached for your reference is a listing of additional suggestions currently being reviewed by the Fiscal Officers Technical Team. However, none of these suggestions are being recommended for an award given that either no contact information was provided or the employee opted not to participate in the awards program.


Next Steps

The County Manager’s Office and the Human Resources Department are currently in the process of refining the Employee Suggestion Program in preparation for the next cycle, which will be launched this summer/early fall. A review of other public agencies, including the counties of San Diego, Sonoma and Santa Cruz, is currently underway to identify best practices that could be used to enhance the County’s process. In addition, a debriefing session will be held in June with Employee Budget Workgroup co-leads to identify what worked and areas of improvement. Several items have already been identified as potential areas of refinement, including: changing the review structure to include departmental representatives; changing the criteria to exclude suggestions that either require labor/contract negotiation or changes in legislation; requiring employees to submit an analysis of suggestion to ensure that each suggestion is thoroughly thought out; and possibly increasing the indirect award.



The Board of Supervisors appropriated $100,000 in the current year’s budget for the STARS Awards Program. Of this amount, $55,800 will or has been awarded as follows: Program Performance Awards $40,000, Customer Service Awards $7,500, Green Awards $8,000 and Employee Suggestion Awards $300. While no direct cost savings have been identified for the five STARS Employee Suggestions Awards, indirect savings are anticipated and other costs savings may be realized through the implementation of various employee suggestions as highlighted on the attached listing of “Other Suggestions Being Analyzed by Fiscal Officers Technical Team.”



1. Listing of Other Suggestions Being Analyzed by Fiscal Officers Technical Team

2. STARS Awards Brochure

Attachment 1


Other Suggestions Being Analyzed by Fiscal Officers Technical Team



Recommended Action / Status / Potential Cost Savings

Reduce the maximum age allowed for a dependent under an employee’s health coverage.

Recommended – Consider for possible inclusion in labor/contract negotiations. Recommend decreasing dependents eligible for health plan coverage from 30 years of age to 26 (with dependent relying on parent for 50% of livelihood). Projected annual cost savings would be $453K.

Add a spousal surcharge for health coverage if that spouse has coverage available through their employer.

Recommended – Consider for possible inclusion in labor/contract negotiations. A spousal surcharge would encourage employees with a working spouse to have that spouse covered under the spouse’s health plan. The recommended annual charge would be $25 per pay period. Cost savings are currently being evaluated – rough estimates indicate about $1M.

Eliminate County catering costs for meetings involving County employees and reduce conference expenses.

Recommended – Policy implementation. Indirect savings would be realized to the extent that departments strictly adhere to new guidelines.

Adjust salary step increase from 5.74% to 5%; add 6th step (based on performance).

No Action. No salary savings would be generated under this proposal. Another option would be to go to a six step option that retains the same salary ranges (step adjustments of 4.57%). The savings would be $1.2 million per year for all County funds. Consider for inclusion in labor negotiations.

Reduce % between salary steps from 5.74% to 4.5% add step 6 (can advance after 2 years at step 5 or 10 years of service, whichever comes first) and step 7 (can advance after 2 years at step 6 or 10 years of service).

No Action. No savings would be generated.

2% Mandatory Time Off for all employees to be used during Holiday week.

Further Review Needed. Implementing 2% Mandatory Time Off for all employees currently working full-time would generate total savings of $8M.

Decrease Management Administrative Leave accrual from 5 hours down to 4 hours.

Further Review Needed: Estimated cost of Management Admin Leave cash out for FY 2008-09 totals $369K (20%).

Implement a 2008 Winter Break and close the offices the week between Christmas and New Years. Employees would take vacation, comp or VTO.

No Action. This proposal does not generate immediate savings since employee would be allowed to use accrued time off. There would be long-term savings in terms of the liability on the County’s financial statements for accrued time off, but the savings would only be realized at the time employees terminate from County service.

Decrease or eliminate mileage allowance and have employees submit mileage claims instead of building benefit into salary.

No Action. Estimated savings countywide would be offset by increased employee mileage reimbursement and motor pool costs.

Utility users tax (UUT) in unincorporated areas for electricity, gas, telephone, cable television that would be collected by these utility companies and remitted to the County.

Further Review Needed.

Convert motor pool vehicles to run on vegetable oil from County kitchens.

No Action. Current technology cost prohibitive; no further action at this time.