By: Luis A. Martinez and Henry McCaslin

About the Authors: 

Luis A. Martinez is a second-year graduate student in the Department of City and Regional Planning at Cornell University. His professional focus is organizational strategy and design in the public and social sectors. Specifically, Luis is interested in performance measurement indicators, metrics, and evaluation strategies in order to quantify the impact of programs, policies, and development. Luis received his Bachelor’s of Science in Architectural Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Henry McCaslin is a second-year Master of Public Administration student at Cornell University, with a concentration in Environmental Policy. His studies have focused on how local government policy can impact sustainability in a way that is innovative, cost-effective, and equitable to all citizens. More specifically, he is interested in exploring how quantitative data can be collected and displayed in a way that improves policymaking. Henry has worked at the Chicago-based Urban Sustainability Directors Network, where he coordinated an international network of local government sustainability professionals. Most recently, he served as an intern at Tompkins County Government in Ithaca, New York, where he developed a County-wide performance measurement system. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Politics from Oberlin College.



In a time of declining municipal revenues and rising fixed costs, the importance of effectively managing the delivery of municipal services, evaluating performance, and monitoring trends cannot be overstated. This field report outlines steps that Tompkins County, located in the Finger Lakes Region of central New York and home to Cornell University and Ithaca College, has taken in developing a performance measurement system over the past two years. Tompkins County has a population of 101,564, an adopted budget of 77.5 million dollars for the 2012 fiscal year, just over 700 full-time equivalent units (FTEs)1, and over twenty departments. This report focuses on the efforts undertaken by County administration in the summer of 2012 to develop and standardize performance scorecards, measure program costs, and build an automated database that spans departments.

Joe Mareane, County Administrator, initialized the County’s performance measurement efforts in 2009 with the assistance of Kevin Sutherland, Executive Assistant, the participation of several department directors, and a team of Cornell University graduate students. Kevin Sutherland was hired to pilot a performance measurement system; however, a year later was assigned to budget coordination responsibilities that delayed implementation efforts. Thereafter, in 2010, graduate students from Cornell’s Institute for Public Affairs and Department of City and Regional Planning were taken on to evaluate programs and develop preliminary measures for pilot programs.

The students’ work resulted in two reports: the fall 2011 performance measurement report and manual that was included as part of the Budget Priority Setting, Performance Measurement, Shared Services, and Charter Revision Report prepared for the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce, and the spring 2012 Performance Measurement Study prepared for the Department of County Administration.2,3 These reports collectively developed preliminary inputs, outputs, efficiencies, and outcomes for various programs in the departments of County Administration, Office of the Aging, Assessment, Finance, Mental Health, Health, Solid Waste Management, and Workforce Development.

The studies provided a particular focus on understanding performance measurement as a management process that could track efficiency, improve effectiveness, and reveal latent opportunities. The scope of evaluation within each department varied and was tailored to specific departmental needs. Initial research was conducted on each department and then formally engaged in designing a performance measurement system collaboratively. This provided the time and space for public managers to reflect on current needs and constraints of their staff, programs, and processes.

In turn, this information provided the framework for drafting initial measures, determining how data was going to be collected, and developing a scorecard. The assessment process revealed that performance measurement should go beyond reporting data. Public managers should engage in this reflective process in a structured manner so as to correlate individual performance to overall department goals. The studies developed a working theory and recommendations that provided mechanisms for evaluation and reporting.

In the summer of 2012, the authors of this report were tasked to examine and synthesize the findings of previous Cornell graduate students and develop an implementation strategy. The resulting process is outlined below and will be discussed in detail in the succeeding paragraphs.


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