Municipal Association Strategic & Business Plan
Mission: The Maine Municipal Association is dedicated to serving the needs of local governments in Maine and advocating their common interests at the state and national level.
(adopted by MMA Executive Committee on December 17, 1997)
This Plan is the first of its kind in the history of the Maine Municipal Association. Its intent is to provide the MMA with:
Vision. A statement reflecting what the organization wants to "look like" in the year 2,000 and beyond.
Strategies. A road map which allows us to say "yes" as well as "no." A rudder, if you will, that keeps us on course, evaluates what we have done, and allows for future changes in course.
Fiscal Link. A framework upon which to link program and financial strategies.
The plan begins with a brief history of the Association that is followed by a section on the Associations mission, vision and values. Following that is a section identifying current challenges and opportunities facing the Association and a section on the goals and objectives of the organization. The next to last section on choices and priorities is a distillation of broad and deep discussions by MMAs management team, staff, Executive Committee and Strategic & Finance Committee. It should be understood that this Plan is in no way a substitute for individual departmental work plans. The Plan ends with an outline of the annual planning process and a description of the Associations "Core Components" that are to be assessed during the process.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE MMA
Like its counterparts in other states, the Maine Municipal Association has had a tradition of service since its founding as a voluntary membership organization in 1936. Like its counterparts, it was originally formed for the purpose of representing municipal government interests before the state legislatures. It soon expanded to provide technical assistance to municipal officials in fulfilling their responsibilities.
Today, technical assistance be it legal, personnel, informational or training is the mainstay of MMAs services program. Beginning in 1978, an array of group self-insured programs were added to the mix of services available through the Association. Most recently, the Association has begun to increase its capacity for information collection and dissemination with the development of a Local Government Resource Center and the establishment of an on-line communications network (MINet) which links the MMA with its membership.
As the Associations services have increased, so has its membership. Today, 99% of Maines 492 municipalities are members of the Association; they range from Kingsbury Plantation (population 13) to the City of Portland (population 63,228). While municipal membership is the main bulk of membership, "associate memberships" have almost doubled during the past ten years, largely as a result of the group self-insured programs.
As the Associations services have increased, the Executive Committee has made a conscious decision to retain all of MMAs programs under one roof, not only to strengthen and enhance its overall capacity, but to provide these services more efficiently and effectively. This necessitated the building of a new "home" in the mid 90s to house the growing list of services.
Today, the Association is regarded as one of the foremost state municipal leagues in the nation in terms of its comprehensive and quality service programs. Currently, the Association responds to over 11,000 legal inquiries a year, provides training programs to over 4,000 officials a year, has a circulation rate of 4,500 for its monthly magazine, the Townsman, and a rate of 2,800 for its weekly (during the legislative session) Legislative Bulletin. Over 500 municipalities and associate members participate in at least one or more MMA Risk Management Services and Maine Municipal Employee Health Trust programs. Currently, 500 individuals, representing 180 municipalities are subscribers to MINet.
MISSION, VISION, VALUES
Mission: The Maine Municipal Association is dedicated to serving the needs of local governments throughout Maine and advocating their common interests at the state and national level.
Vision: The Maine Municipal Association believes that
- Not only is local government the keystone of democracy, it is a strong element in the history and heritage of Maine, and as such, the future of Maine - its quality of life, its institutions, environment and economy - is dependent on a system of effective, efficient and responsive local governments
Furthermore, the Maine Municipal Association believes that
- Not only does the Association exist to assist local governments in meeting the needs of their citizens and serving as responsible partners in Maines intergovernmental system, but that MMAs strength and effectiveness is directly tied to the commitment and high performance of its staff as well as the involvement and support of its diverse membership.
Values: The Maine Municipal Association values:
Those individuals the elected officials, employees and volunteers who serve local government, as well as the staff who serve the Association.
Results-oriented work within an atmosphere that encourages excellence and high achievement, maintains high ethical standards, and provides for professional staff development.
Constant review and evaluation of all that MMA undertakes in the name of cost-effectiveness and accountability.
A level of customer service that surpasses the expectations of our members.
Innovative approaches, reasonable risk-taking, and leadership in a time of change, challenge, and increasing complexity
Cooperation and collaboration, not only with other organizations but also within the organization to ensure maximum efficiency and effectiveness.
Open communication, inclusive decision-making and team work.
Changes, Challenges and Opportunities
Changes and Challenges
Maines municipalities, as well as the MMA, face significant change and challenge as the year 2,000 approaches:
- The over reliance on the property tax, which currently makes up 45% of the three major sources of revenue in the State of Maine, is of major concern, not only to municipal governments as they seek ways to provide needed public services and maintain their infrastructure, but to the state as a whole, as it seeks to be competitive in a global economy. Ongoing citizen efforts to impose a statewide property tax cap and a recent study targeting the overall cost of government (state, county and local) has underscored the urgency to redress the imbalance.
- Citizen anger over rising taxes is coupled with a growing apathy both at the ballot box and in the numbers running for local office. The challenge facing local government is to develop an informed and positively engaged citizenry. At the same time, term limits on Maine legislators has highlighted the need for an informed Legislature. The challenge here is to provide local officials with encouragement and the proper tools to realize their power as grassroots advocates.
- The diversity of MMAs membership makes achieving member consensus on key legislative positions difficult. This is especially true when it comes to such issues as the States educational subsidy or the burdens felt by so-called "service center communities."
- Technological changes in the information arena are rapidly transforming the manner in which business is being accomplished. The challenges to the MMA in this arena are numerous: To remain technologically current in order to increase in-house communication and productivity; to use the existing technology to better communicate with our membership; and last but not least, to strengthen our memberships ability to make effective and efficient use of the technology.
- Demands for basic legal, personnel, and training services are growing both in number of requests and complexity of issues. Compounding the increase in demands is the fact that legal is dues funded, personnel has had a reduction in capacity as a result of the reorganization of administration, and training is spread thin with meeting the demands of the affiliate groups. MMAs challenge is to keep abreast of current as well as emerging needs in these three basic services and to have the flexibility and the structural and funding mechanisms in place to meet those needs.
- Turnover among elected officials continues at a steady pace fueled by locally imposed term limits and the inherent pressures of the job. MMAs challenge is to establish relationships with its memberships ever-changing representatives and to provide membership with constant and consistent communication about and affordable and timely access to its services.
- While the MMA has experienced 100% membership retention for many years, there is a continual challenge to ensure that all members receive exemplary, if not equal, value for their dues and that they understand that value.
- MMAs Risk Management Services program and the MMA-administered Maine Municipal Employees Health Trust are experiencing intense competition as a result of cyclical insurance industry trends and dynamic changes in the health care delivery system. At the same time, MMAs role as an administrator of the Health Trust is changing as it moves away from a day-to-day, hands-on operation toward one that administers service contracts. Risk Management Services, while broadening and strengthening its basic operations, is also becoming a conduit for special coverages for members and associate members.
- Meeting the personnel needs of MMA staff has never been more challenging, given the recent internal reorganization of administration and increased staffing. The challenge to MMA is to ensure that performance standards and compensation are consistent and equitable, and that there are on-going and creative programs for staff orientation and team building.
Every challenge provides an opportunity. Below are a select few potential new or expanded programs that MMA might consider in meeting the challenges.
Advanced Training: The majority of MMAs current training programs provide basic training in municipal functions and issues. For the most part, they are offered in conjunction with MMAs affiliate groups. MMAs legal staff devotes a considerable amount of time in preparing for and presenting many of these programs. While the programs are well received and serve to assist municipal officials in dealing with on-going issues, membership has expressed a need for additional programs on "emerging" issues and more advanced professional development. MMA would need to develop a comprehensive approach to this opportunity, including the possibility of partnering with other institutions to provide these advanced offerings.
Information Technology: The field of information technology provides the MMA with numerous opportunities. Municipalities are looking for help in charting a course through the new field of information technology. The MMA could provide technical assistance in this uncharted area as it did with personnel services/labor relations in the 70s. MMA could provide this service directly, partner with others, or act as a referral agency.
Municipalities are also looking for ways to streamline the system of government reporting. MMA could explore facilitating the ability of governments to report on-line with various State agencies (potentially using MINet as the vehicle to do so). MMA could also serve as a clearinghouse for information. Currently, MMAs Unemployment Compensation program reports electronically for members participating in the program by consolidating the relevant wage and employment information into one format for the Department of Labor.
Last but not least, the current technology allows MMA to enhance its exchange of information with membership and other entities as well as streamline its own fiscal operations.
Direct Citizen Education: Most municipal officials express concern at the lack of understanding of municipal government by the general public. This raises concern, not only in terms of support and involvement at the present time (e.g., degree of support for the property tax rollback referendum, poor attendance at town meetings, drop-off in volunteerism, and a lack of candidates for public office), but also as far as future interest in serving local government. Many state leagues have established citizen education programs to bring about greater understanding of and involvement in local government. Efforts in this arena have been held back by budgetary constraints. The MMA could conceivably collaborate with various public and private sectors to bring about greater awareness and support in this area. School curricula could be developed; public television could be enlisted; so could the Margaret Chase Smith Center or the Muskie Institute.
Intergovernmental Consolidation: If the proposed restructuring of county government is adopted, it is likely that municipalities and counties will explore a variety of entrepreneurial opportunities and examine the feasibility of consolidating various services. Conceivably, a technical assistance capacity (e.g., conducting economic analyses, etc.) at an organization such as the MMA might be a cost effective way to assist in these efforts. Funding might derive from the interested jurisdictions and possibly through grant programs established to promote these efforts. The restructuring of county municipal relations could also have implications for various MMA technical assistance and group services programs.
Other Non-Traditional Arenas: With deregulation of the electric utility industry taking place in many states, a number of state leagues are sponsoring programs to allow municipalities and other government units to join together as purchasers of electrical energy. In most cases, the preliminary plans focus on municipal government usage. State leagues that are exploring this arena believe they might be in a position to provide significant cost savings to their members and also provide significant non-dues revenues to assist in funding league operations. Other opportunities in this arena are group services for telephone and finance.
GOALS & OBJECTIVES
GOAL 1: Advocate on Behalf of Local Government
Maintain a strong, direct advocacy presence in the State House, with our Congressional Delegation and in the judicial arena.
In addition to maintaining its current advocacy efforts for a more equitable tax burden, its monitoring of intergovernmental funding, its efforts to advance the concept of home rule, its work with the 70-member Legislative Policy Committee and its weekly publication of the Legislative Bulletin and annual publication of the federal issues paper, the MMA will seek to:
- Strengthen participation by the Legislative Policy Committee.
- Assist membership in realizing its full potential for grassroots advocacy.
- Promote increased understanding and support for local government by the general public, business community and the media.
In addition to maintaining its current work with municipalities in strengthening their communication efforts with their taxpayers, the MMA will seek to:
- Increase its capacity to provide municipalities with the tools and materials needed to strengthen their current citizen education/information efforts.
- Develop a plan for direct citizen education that works with and through entities other than municipal government, such as schools, universities and public broadcasting.
- Make use of all available technology and encourage municipalities to do the same.
Meet the needs of our members for basic and advanced training
In addition to maintaining training efforts that currently provide more than 4,000 members and affiliate groups with basic training and governing skills, MMA will seek to:
- Increase access to training programs by making use of the latest technologies (Internet, video, ITV).
- Offer a wider range of training programs to provide advanced professional development and address emerging issues.
- Strengthen the promotion of our training programs, especially among elected officials.
Meet the information needs of our membership
In addition to maintaining its current publication program (Townsman, Fiscal and Salary surveys, Legislative Bulletin and Legal Manuals, MMA will seek to:
In addition to maintaining the quality of its current technical assistance programs, MMA will:
- Assess and evaluate membership needs for legal and personnel services and the options for meeting those needs.
- Assess the administrative and technical needs of affiliate groups and MMAs ability to provide services to meet those needs.
- Evaluate MMAs current training capacity vis a vis current and future membership training program needs
- Provide training programs to assist membership needs in the areas of financial management and information technology by using out-of-house resources.
- Enhance efforts to provide municipal officials with quality materials to enable them to make their own decisions in the field of legal and personnel services.
- Meet the needs of our members for existing and new programs for group purchasing of goods and services
In addition to maintaining its commitment to offer an array of group programs to assist its members in meeting their insurance and risk management needs, MMA will:
- Maintain its commitment as Administrator of the Maine Municipal Employees Health Trust to meet the needs of the Health Trust and its members.
In terms of other potential group programs, MMA will:
- Monitor areas such as electric utility deregulation and telecommunications services for potential benefits to MMA members through a group program approach.
GOAL 3: Foster Collaboration
Work with other providers of services to meet our members needs for training and the growing demands for existing and new services.
Identify, establish relationships with, and develop outside resources to meet the growing need for existing and expanded training programs and services.
As Plan Administrator of the Maine Municipal Employees Health Trust, MMA should join coalitions to purchase benefit plans, services and share information to affect change in the health care delivery system, and to improve local government employee health.
Build strategic coalitions with the public and private sector on a case-by-case basis to advance the policy needs of local government.
Work with the business, education and other community groups to advance significant reforms and government efficiencies.
Share information with other institutions.
Develop a plan to aggressively pursue partnering of information gathering and sharing with public and private sectors.
Explore streamlining municipal government reporting to state government.
Promote collaboration within and between all levels of government.
MMA will provide membership with information on existing and new forms of interlocal cooperation and maintaining an active working relationship with the Governors office.
Enhance communication with membership.
In addition to maintaining current membership efforts through our publication program, convention, and awards programs, MMA will seek to:
Establish a communications team to coordinate and implement marketing and membership relations efforts.
Survey membership periodically (utilizing formal and informal approaches) to assess the effectiveness of our services.
Make an ongoing commitment to increase individual contact with membership by management and staff.
Utilize the MMA Advisory Committee more effectively through integration with the strategic and business planning process.
Utilize technology to facilitate communications with our membership, while maintaining a commitment to personal service.
GOAL 5: Enhance Management of MMA's Resources
Enhance staff support and development.
In addition to maintaining its present role in hiring and orienting new staff, as well as maintaining personnel records and keeping staff apprised of their benefits on an ongoing basis, MMA will seek to:
- Assess whether current personnel resources meet the needs of staff.
- Formulate a plan to study improving institutional rewards for high performers.
- Develop a program for continuous learning by staff to meet membership needs.
- Assess the equability of the current compensation program.
- Provide ongoing opportunities for team building.
- Strengthen the performance review system by providing periodic supervisory training.
Formalize planning and assessment of all our programs.
- Utilize a variety of techniques to measure the effectiveness of our services.
- Institute an annual examination of our core services.
Enhance capacity to collect, analyze, exchange and disseminate information.
- Develop a comprehensive plan for use of and management of information technology.
- Increase use of technology meeting the needs of our membership.
- Develop the capacity of the Resource Center to collect, catalogue and disseminate information.
- Establish standards of quality control for the production of all materials including marketing materials, Townsman, Legislative Bulletin, Manuals, Surveys.
Maintain a stable and flexible financial structure.
- Evaluate current dues structure and alternatives.
- Explore the development of non-dues revenue sources.
- Improve the budgeting process.
- Evaluate our administrative fee structure.
- Develop a contingency fund for rapid response to opportunities and threats.
- Develop business plans for all new programs and for all current programs undergoing significant change.
Choices and Priorities
Given the many challenges and opportunities facing MMA and its members, the MMA Executive Committee relies upon its on-going strategic business planning process to define what MMA will and will not do both in terms of current programs and preparing for the future.
The extensive MMA membership survey conducted in 1996 provided a foundation for the Executive Committee to gauge member satisfaction with MMAs current portfolio of services and operations and interest in other possible areas of activity. The survey had the following major findings:
High satisfaction with current service program
Interest in increased (more advanced) training program offerings
Desire for MMA to continue and to strengthen its advocacy efforts and to assist municipal officials in participating through contact with local legislators, etc.
Affirmation that membership desires MMA to be innovative and forward looking
Based upon the membership survey and significant follow-up review and discussion (MMA Advisory Committee, staff input, Strategic and Finance Committee, etc.), the Executive Committee has identified the following priorities:
- Conduct an assessment of legal services to consider staffing, range of services and funding
- Assess options for providing personnel services (labor negotiations, executive searches, etc.) to members
- Increase personnel training offerings for membership
- Proceed to move MINet onto the Internet.
- Integrate MMA services onto MINet.
- Evaluate MMAs current Training/Affiliate Group service program vis a vis requests for additional training/professional development offerings.
Citizen education: Develop a comprehensive plan to
Management of MMA Resources:
APPENDIX A ANNUAL PLANNING TIMETABLE AND PROCESS
Executive Committee adopts revised Strategic and Business Plan
Strategic & Finance Committee identifies major areas for review during the next year
Staff formulates annual work program reflecting Strategic and Business Plan
MMA Advisory Committee consulted on major areas which will be reviewed by Strategic and Finance Committee during the calendar year
Executive Committee, Advisory Committee, and staff input sought to evaluate status of core components (Appendix B), update Change, Challenges, Opportunities (Section IV) and provide other suggestions for additions/modifications
MMA annual budget process (calendar fiscal year) commences, with Strategic & Business Plan providing long term framework
Executive Director prepares annual "State of the Association" report, including status report on core components, report on Goals & Objectives, and updated Changes, Challenges and Opportunities.
Executive Committee reviews Executive Directors State of the Association report and provides guidance regarding possible modifications to Strategic and Business Plan
Staff incorporates Executive Committee direction and drafts revisions for review and adoption by Executive Committee in December
Preparation of next years budget reflects guidance provided by Executive Committee through Strategic and Business Plan and Strategic & Finance Committee
APPENDIX B CORE COMPONENTS
(NOTE: Each year the Executive Director will review the status of the core components identified below in a "State of the Association" report submitted to the MMA Executive Committee.)
The Maine Municipal Association is a complex organization involved in an array of enterprises with one common denominator: Service. MMAs success in each of its ongoing service areas is directly tied to a number of "core components" The Strategic and Business Plan provides a framework for the Executive Committee to track those core components. This section is intended to assist MMA in maintaining its focus to "stick to the knitting," and hopefully to avoid a potential "strategic planning trap" of focusing primarily on new initiatives.
As a non-partisan, non-profit organization, the MMA has a tradition of serving as a strong and effective advocate for municipal governments in the intergovernmental arena. MMA has skilled staff with wide-ranging knowledge and experience in intergovernmental relations and policy analysis and development. Through its 70-member Legislative policy Committee, MMAs advocacy efforts are firmly grounded and supported by its membership.
MMAs Legal Services staff has over 70 years experience in municipal law; its members are recognized as some of the most knowledgeable in their field. They respond to an annual volume of 11,000 inquiries (40 60 a day in some cases) on a wide range of issues. They are also actively involved in training programs, prepares and update a range of manuals, handbooks and other legal resources, provide technical support for MMAs legislative efforts and prepare amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs in cases involving municipal issues of statewide significance. MMA seeks to maintain a highly experienced Legal Services staff which is at the front-end of state and national municipal law issues and trends.
Personnel Services/Labor Relations
Through involvement in a wide range of fee-based work in individual municipalities, MMA has first-hand knowledge and experience on human resource management and labor relations. This strengthens MMAs ability to respond to telephone and letter inquiries on personnel and labor relations issues. MMAs executive search program provides valuable assistance to elected boards during important periods of transition. This program also allows MMA to develop positive working relationships with new town and city managers. MMA seeks to maintain a strong in-house staff capacity in the personnel/labor relations arena, with the possibility of collaborative arrangements with other practitioners (e.g., private consultants, public sector professionals, etc.) to enable MMA to be responsive to member requests during peak periods.
MMAs Communications staff provide an information link to our members - researching and writing important articles on key issues for the monthly Maine Townsman, producing a variety of written marketing materials such as the MMA Calendar and Catalogue, and keeping staff and membership up-to-date on municipal news as well as serving as liaison with the press. The Communication staff also serves as an in-house resource to MMA departments. MMA seeks to enhance its communications capacity in the areas of citizen education - helping its members communicate with citizens on local government and sharing information directly with citizens.
Training/Affiliate Group Coordination
MMA has extensive experience in organizing, scheduling and conducting training programs. - more than 50 different workshops a year - as well as its annual Convention. MMA relies largely upon MMA staff members and MMA affiliate groups for program development . MMAs contracts with various affiliate groups (e.g., Maine Town and City Clerks Association, Maine Town and City Management Association, etc.) offer a variety of services such as maintenance of membership lists, meeting coordination, newsletters, etc.
Information Collection, Analysis, and Dissemination
MMAs Local Government Resource Center collects, generates and disseminates current and historical information relevant to local government functions. Among its annual publications are a salary survey and a fiscal survey. The Center also responds to inquiries from municipalities. Information is available electronically through MMAs Municipal Information Network (MINet). Established in 1995, MINet provides electronic access to a wide variety of MMA resources, including legal notes, sample ordinances and contracts, state property tax bulletins, and information on its group services. Currently, over 1,500 documents are available for printing. MINet also provides a communication link between Maine municipalities and offers the opportunity to file some Risk Management forms electronically.
Health and Employee Benefit Plan Management and Administration
As Administrator for the Maine Municipal Employees Health Trust, MMA has developed a strong capacity, in concert with a team of professional advisors, to administer and manage an array of health and employee benefit programs for MMA members. Health care insurance and management is an extremely complex and dynamic field, with rapidly changing relationships, state and federal requirements, and significant financial implications. The MMA Executive Committee is committed to providing high quality service to the Health Trust and meeting the Trusts current and future program needs.
Risk Management Services
MMA has a highly experienced risk management and insurance staff, with appropriate professional certifications and licensing. Through the Executive Committees decision in the early 1990s to bring underwriting, claims management and loss control functions in-house, MMA strengthened its overall management of its group programs and enhanced its ability to deliver comprehensive service tailored to local government operations and exposures. The MMA Executive Committee is committed to maintaining this capacity, recognizing the benefits which accrue both to participating entities and to MMA members in general (informational programs, presence of strong, competitive MMA programs in the marketplace, etc.)
As an organization providing an array of professional services, the Maine Municipal Associations number one asset and most important resource is its staff. MMAs ability to attract, retain and motivate qualified staff members is based on a combination of components including compensation, positive working atmosphere, staff development opportunities, and effective human resource management policies and procedures.
MMA is a relatively large and complex financial enterprise, with annual operations in the range of $60 million and responsibility for management and investment of over $84 million . Given accounting and various program management requirements, MMA maintains over 50 separate accounting entities (e.g.,, each fund year is tracked separately for the Workers Compensation, Property and Casualty and Health Trust programs, etc.). MMAs successful operation is contingent upon maintaining an experienced and well qualified finance staff and up to date Management Information Systems for its financial operations.
Management Information System (MIS)
Information is at the heart of MMAs operations. A state of the art management information system is essential to maximize organizational efficiency and effectiveness. Based on an in-depth review in 1996, the MMA Executive Committee concluded that MMA should develop and maintain strong in-house staff capability (with selected outside support services and special project assignments) to support MMAs management information system.
Physical Plant and Telecommunications
The MMA office building provides a highly efficient facility for staff to operate and serves as a hub for our members to meet in a relatively central and convenient location.. MMAs telephone system is a mainstay in MMAs operations, in 1996 we handled 150,000 incoming calls. As information technology capabilities continue to broaden, MMA is committed to being in the forefront of offering electronic communications connections for our members.
Central Support Services
As an organization serving hundreds of members, MMAs on-going work products and activities require a great deal of administrative and staff support. MMA utilizes a "Central Services" approach to provide key support services for the entire organization and to supplement the support staffing of individual departments. This includes such things as handling incoming and outgoing mail; reproduction and assembling of materials; data input, word processing and desktop publishing; label and mailing list generation; and receptionist services for directing incoming telephone calls and receiving visitors to the building. These are key support services which are essential to MMAs on-going operations.