At an abbreviated special meeting of the Montana Board of Livestock on Wednesday, the discussion was frank and to the point. Two items listed on the Agenda took up the bulk of the time:
· Executive Officer Evaluation
· Budget Status Review
Evaluation of Staff Performance
Several Board Members expressed concern that in recent years there has been no specified performance evaluation process for either the Executive Officer (who reports to the Board) or for key Department Staff (who report to the Executive Officer).
1. The Board decided to ask each Board Member to complete a formal Employee Performance Appraisal on Executive Officer Christian Mackay, and that those evaluations would be discussed at the next meeting to be held on March 23-24.
2. Further, the Board voted to ask Executive Officer Mackay to formally evaluate all department personnel by June 15th, and to submit a preliminary evaluation to the Board for discussion at their May meeting.
3. The Board also discussed whether the state grievance procedures apply to the Executive Officer position. Original position offerings seem to indicate that those policies do not apply, but Executive Office Mackay indicated his understanding that they do in fact apply to his position. The Board voted to seek legal advice about the question regarding whether state grievance procedures may apply.
Budget Status Review
For several months the Department of Livestock has been facing a serious Budget shortfall. This challenge has caused great concern throughout the industry, and among members of the State Legislature which is currently in the process of determining the Department’s budget for 2017 Biennium. The Board has taken several actions in this respect, including increasing fees at the Diagnostic Lab, increases in charges for Brand inspections, livestock market transactions, and per capita fees, plus reducing some staff positions and implementing staff furloughs.
George Harris presented a Financial Review that showed progress in some departments toward reaching the targeted expense reductions that were requested by the Board last fall. The bottom line was that “We are making progress, but we are not out of the woods yet.” Harris said it will still be a significant challenge for the Department to achieve their budget target by the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2015.
Board Member John Scully moved that the Board ask for a plan to be submitted in March to explain what changes must be made in order to meet the year-end targeted savings. Scully also asked for development of a long-term Budget Information Plan that includes three-year projections for revenue and spending, along with a multi-year plan that identifies significant risks that may emerge, and a proposed “decision tree” framework of the choices might have to be made, and at what times.
Newly-nominated Board Appointee Nina Baucus of Wolf Creek was present for the meeting. Her confirmation hearing will come before the State Senate Ag Committee next week.
The terms of current board members Jan French and Brett DeBruycker will expire on February 28th. French has indicated that she will not seek a re-appointment to the Board, so at least one new appointment is expected soon from the Governor.