Allegheny County manager suggests consolidation of departments

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Allegheny County could save $250,000 annually if it “co-mingled” its real estate department with its Office of Property Assessments, manager William McKain said Thursday.

In a recently released report, Mr. McKain recommended that real estate functions be housed under the county’s administrative services department, which already includes property assessments among its divisions.

“They really do work hand in hand,” he said in an interview.

Mr. McKain, as county manager, is charged by the county’s home rule charter to conduct a so-called “sunset review” every four years, evaluating the need for each county department, agency and function.

The latest review, dated June 30 and clocking in at more than 300 pages, began in the fall of 2013, Mr. McKain said. It covers the county’s 20 departments, as well as 29 agencies and authorities ranging from the Allegheny County Airport Authority to the lesser-known Plumbing Advisory Board. The previous review was completed in 2010.

The 2014 review says that transferring the functions of the real estate department to administrative services would “promote a seamless process with respect to land and real estate.”

The real estate department, with a $2.95 million budget and 50 employees, is housed in the County Office Building, Downtown. Its responsibilities include recording documents such as deeds and mortgages, mapping properties and maintaining property ownership records.

It was created in 2008, the result of the consolidation of the Recorder of Deeds office and the deed registry and mapping division of the Office of Property Assessments, according to the county website.

Mr. McKain said the county could achieve savings by not filling some open positions in the real estate department, such as manager. That position was held by Valerie McDonald-Roberts, who joined the Peduto administration as its urban affairs officer. Mr. McKain said there would be additional efficiencies in areas such as clerical and information systems if real estate and property assessments were joined together.

The report also recommends that the Parks and Recreation Commission, established in 2003, be abolished. The report said the commission has not functioned since the creation of the Allegheny County Parks Foundation.

The 15 members of Allegheny County Council, currently on summer recess, can consider Mr. McKain’s recommendations this fall. They can, if they choose, pass a resolution or an ordinance to continue, abolish or reorganize departments, said Jared Barker, council’s chief clerk.

Mr. McKain, in his report, also proposes that a staggered review process begin starting next year to focus on several departments annually, along with their respective agencies, rather than focus on all the departments once every few years. The proposed schedule calls for 2015 reviews to be performed for Economic Development, the Health Department, Kane Regional Centers and the Minority, Women, Disadvantaged Business Enterprise department.

Kaitlynn Riely: or 412-263-1707.

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