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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Government should only pay for successful programs, right??

Recently Salt Lake County has been in the news nationwide for championing Pay for Success models as a means to provide services, but only pay when the service programs actually work to achieve designated outcomes. Here's more info on this Pay for Success model:

Pay for Success is performance-based contracting between government and social service providers, where government only pays providers if target outcomes are achieved as opposed to providing cost reimbursement payments.  Under this model, the government commits funds to pay for a specific outcome.  Independent investors provide the financial capital to cover the operating costs of achieving the outcome.  In return for accepting the risks of funding the project, the investors may expect a return on their investment.  Payment of the funds by the government is contingent on the validated achievement of results.  The burden of investment risk shifts from government to the investors.

The Pay for Success model solves more than just social problems.  It helps governments operate effectively.  Historically, governments are inefficient in allocating and investing their resources.  Supporters of a budgetary line item will fight to keep the funding even if it is inefficient.  Political repercussions may keep this line item on the books indefinitely.  This practice limits local government’s ability to solve problems.  Funds that could be used for innovative problem-solving are tied up in waste.  Salt Lake County reduces financial and political risks to the county by using a pay for success model.  This model allows the county to solve problems by focusing on results and outcomes.

Salt Lake County began testing the use of these funds (also known as Social Impact Bonds) in 2013 when we solicited $7 million in private funding from Goldman Sachs and J.B. Pritzker to give to The United Way (the administrator). This program allows 600 at-risk children to benefit from early intervention designed to keep them from staying in special education though out their education.  Special education is extremely expensive and it is estimated for every $1 of investment the taxpayer saves $14 when these students participate at grade-level. By third grade these students will be tested again to determine if they are still at-risk or are participating at grade level. For every student that stays out of special education the private investor will receive their money back, plus 5% interest. If a child doesn't make it out of special education then the taxpayer doesn't lose anything. We see a direct correlation between students in special ed and those who graduate from high school. There is then a correlation between students who don't graduate and those who end up in jail - one of the county's largest expenses.

A couple months ago the County Council voted again to try the Pay for Success model on a 6-2 vote. They allocated $150,000 to come from the Office of Regional and Economic Development to negotiate contracts and to seek out ways to use private investment, comparable to the preschool program. Focuses will be

on recidivism, homelessness, and other social programs. This is an opportunity for government to partner with the private sector to make sure our county programs are even better.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Board member needed for Open Space Advisory Trust Fund

We are looking for a board member for the Open Space Advisory Trust Fund committee from District 3

All of the people on the board are passionate about open space or urban farming.

The board meets about 4-6 times a year, usually during regular business hours.

The board’s mission is described in SLCO ordinance, 2.93:
The committee shall advise the county council and the county mayor on the preservation, acquisition and development of real property which may be used or which is currently being used for open space. The committee shall develop criteria for assigning priorities to real property acquisition. The committee shall review and evaluate acquisitions of open space property by Salt Lake County, and shall issue written recommendations to the county council and the county mayor with respect to proposed acquisitions or proposed expenditures of trust funds which promote open space within the county.

Representation is described as follows:
To the extent possible, citizen members shall be chosen from a broad array of professional and citizen backgrounds and with emphasis on those knowledgeable in land conservation, natural resources, recreation and wildlife management, landscape architecture or planning, real estate, finance, public relations, business and fund raising. The mayor shall provide the committee with appropriate staff support.

If you are interested in serving on this committee, please contact my office at 385-468-7456 or

Monday, December 15, 2014

Help at-risk youth this Christmas!

If you’ve stopped by the Salt Lake County offices lately, you would have notices the beautiful Christmas Trees on display in the foyer of the north building. Mayor Ben McAdams announced the annual Youth Services Angel Giving Tree campaign in partnership with Shelterkids, a local non-profit providing items to abused, neglected and at-risk youth served by Salt Lake County Youth Services.

The Angel Giving Trees display handcrafted ornaments donated by volunteers from the community and will be available inside the Salt Lake County Government Center North building atrium. Salt Lake County employees and the community are encouraged to select an ornament that represents a special and needed gift for a youth. There’s still time to make a difference in the life of one of our own here in Salt Lake County. Donations are gladly accepted at the Salt Lake County Mayor’s office by December 17th and will be distributed to youth in need for the holidays.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Salt Lake County passes budget with no tax increase

Every year Salt Lake County’s budget is written and presented by the mayor in a public meeting. This year the state auditor required all taxing entities (state auditor alert 2014-3) to put all pass-through monies on their books. For example, Salt Lake County collects sales taxes that go directly to UTA, and now those taxes will be a part of the official budget. This means that $210,092,453 will be added to this year’s budget, making the total proposal $1.1 billion.

After the mayor made his presentation on October 28th, the county council considered changes during budget workshops over the past month. This year as the council scrutinized the budget proposal, I found some items worthy of note:

-This budget contains no tax increase and is fiscally conservative.

-The Dashboard Project: This will be a real-time platform where citizens can see data and progress that various departments within the county are making. We will be able to see real evidence of what works and what doesn’t. This project focuses on positive outcomes and making the best use of tax dollars.

-Pay for Success: This is performance-based contracting between government and social service providers, where government only pays providers if target outcomes are achieved.

-This budget provides $40 million in deferred maintenance.

-County employees will receive a 2.75% average merit increase.

-Nearly $20 million of new funding requests were cut.

You can view the budget that the mayor proposed.

Here is the article from the Salt Lake Tribune on the budget.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Salt Lake County one of four winners in ‘New Ideas Challenge’

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams was honored at an awards ceremony today for winning the NewDEAL (Developing Exceptional American Leaders) “New Ideas Challenge 2014” for the category “best public-private partnership.”  The awards were presented by Delaware Governor Jack Markell, honorary chair of the NewDEAL.

Salt Lake County’s entry was the pilot program that expanded voluntary, high-quality preschool to 600 economically disadvantaged children in the Granite School District. The county partnered with United Way of Salt Lake, Voices for Utah Children and Goldman Sachs.

“At a time of national gridlock, I’m proud that Salt Lake County is showing how—in a bipartisan way—we can solve problems, providing families with an opportunity to participate in this ‘game-changing’ effort.  Another important result is that we’re saving taxpayer dollars by partnering with both the private and the nonprofit sectors to fund this innovative initiative,” said Mayor McAdams.

The first ever New Ideas Challenge gives recognition to smart, pro-growth solutions that are being developed and tested by state and local leaders all across the country. All of the idea submissions are viewable at a new website unveiled today –

McAdams said Salt Lake County was selected out of sixty submissions by an esteemed panel of judges who are recognized as thought leaders in the policy arena. McAdams is a member of the NewDEAL. More about the county’s pay for success preschool initiative can be found here.