Department Operations Updates: JUNE 22, 2021

This post includes a summary of recent Dallas County department operations updates relevant, specifically, to members of the Dallas County Commissioners Court.  

Team updates include:

  • Budget and Evaluation
  • Elections
  • Health and Human Services
  • Human Resources
  • Information Technology

Budget and Evaluation

Director: Dr. Ronica Watkins

Dr. Ronica Watkins, Budget Officer

Our office remains committed to developing a fiscally-sound budget, which requires a complex balance of needs and services.

Dallas County’s fiscal year begins on October 1and ends on September 30. The budget process for each upcoming fiscal year begins in January with budget planning and the development of budget guidelines. The budget guidelines serve as the foundation to the development of the baseline budget and set the framework for the entire budget process. The baseline budget contains revenues estimates developed by the Dallas County Auditor. Dallas County’s FY2022 budget will be developed during the recovery of the impact from the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the continued weight of Senate Bill 2 (SB 2) and, more recently, the February 2021 winter storms. SB 2 reduced the cap on the tax rate increase that the Commissioners Court can consider without voter approval to no more than 3.5%. This limitation on local control with the passing of SB 2 requires Dallas County to think creatively and strategically as we address the needs of our residents.

During FY2020, our office modernized budgeting and planning with the implementation of the OpenGov portal to streamline the annual-budget process.

In addition to streamlining the annual-budget process, our office now can quickly pull requested data for meetings via the portal that was designed specifically for government use. The FY2022 budget process represents the first time the portal was used completely since the implementation for budget submissions. Approximately 85% of budget submissions were made by the April 30, 2021 deadline, making OpenGov a success. 

Dallas County Administrator Darryl Martin said, “This software platform of OpenGov is exactly what Dallas County needs to bring us into the future.” Watch this video to learn more.

Our office finalized a FY2022 Budget Schedule.

Dallas County’s budget process consists of department trainings, several months of presentations, budget hearings, public hearings and budget adoption. The budget calendar below outlines critical dates throughout the budget process. 

Our office is implementing a new court-order-submission process designed to make the process of submitting items for the agenda more efficient.

The preference is to finish researching best practices and implementing changes and training materials by the fall of 2021.

In April 2021, our office created a Budget Resource Page that includes all the information our customers need to prepare their departmental budget proposals.

The Budget Resource Page includes training as a reference point for departments requiring additional assistance.

The FY2021 budget was adopted on September 15, 2020, with a total General Fund adopted budget of $678.3 million, representing an increase of $19.5 million (3%) over the projected FY2020 adopted budget of $658.8 million. The FY2021 All Funds budget is over $1 billion.

The Budget Officer formally proposes a balanced budget at the conclusion of the budget process and makes it available for public comment. The budget and tax rate are then formally adopted by the Commissioners Court.

Dallas County continues to maintain a conservative tax rate, and the FY2021 recommended tax rate is the lowest it has been since FY2011.

The tax rate for FY2021 was set at $.239740 cents per $100 assessed valuation, which represents a decrease of -1.38% from the FY2020 rate of $.2431 cents per $100 tax assessed valuation. Dallas County’s tax rate is to be one of the lowest of urban counties in Texas.


A graph depicting Dallas County’s property tax rate trend. The figure demonstrates the first year of a decrease since FY2011.

Our department was excited to promote Erica Terrazas to the position of Assistant Director of the Office of Budget and Evaluation in May 2021.

Erica has been a part of our office for over eight years after she spent one year in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Program working as a senior policy analyst. She has a Masters of Public Affairs from the University of Texas, where she also completed her undergraduate degree in ethnic studies. Erica is a vital member of our team, so please join us in congratulating her and welcoming her into this new role.

Erica Terrazas, Assistant Director of the Office of Budget and Evaluation

Elections

Director: Michael Scarpello

Michael Scarpello, Elections Administrator

Our department remains committed to conducting reliable elections and to accurately maintaining voter-registration records for Dallas County citizens.

In addition to upholding the laws, policies and court decisions of federal, state and local jurisdictions, our department is responsible for the following: 

  • Community Outreach and Voter Education
  • Voter Registration Records
  • Voting-Site Management and Poll-Worker Training
  • Ballot by Mail Management
  • Warehouse and Logistics Management
  • Election Equipment Management

Our department welcomed two new employees in May 2021.

  • Aida Solomon, Customer Relations Coordinator (May 17, 2021)
  • Malissa Stallings-Kouba, Deputy Elections Administrator (May 29, 2021)

Our department successfully completed two elections, the 2021 Joint Election and the 2021 Runoff Election, as well as a large voter-registration drive at Dallas County’s COVID-19 vaccination site at Fair Park.

For the Joint and Runoff Elections, our department implemented several improvements including the following:

  • Established a New VIP Hotline: Our department implemented a new phone bank, called the VIP Hotline, for participating jurisdictions, elected officials, political parties, candidates and the media. The creation of this hotline enabled us to successfully increase the capacity to answer calls and address all issues. It also helped us systematically address critical issues first.
  • Made Mail-Ballot Improvements: Our department modified the way it processes mail ballots by switching to a process where the signatures on voted-mail ballots and mail-ballot applications are moved between departments electronically and ballot envelopes are sorted using state-of-the-art technology, which resulted in a more effective and efficient process.
  • Modified Our Department’s Equipment-Distribution Plan: Our department modified its plan for distributing equipment, personnel and supplies to polling places by successfully using analytics to project voter turnout overall and at the vote centers resulting in $500,000 in savings.
  • Decreased Our Department’s Reliance on Vendors: Our department transitioned certain central-count tasks from a costly vendor to Central Count staff members, which resulted in $200,000 in significant cost savings.
  • Improved Ballot Security: Our department changed the procedure used to transport election results to increase ballot security.
  • Established Dependable Election Results-Release Schedules: Election results-release schedules were established to ensure results were released at scheduled times rather than at random times on election night.
  • Set Up Assistance for Poll Workers: A new Set Up Assistance Team (SUAT) was established to assist poll workers in opening their vote centers on time.

Health and Human Services

Director: Dr. Philip Huang

Dr. Philip Huang, Director of the Health and Human Services Department and the Health Authority for Dallas County

Our department is proud to announce that the Fair Park Community Vaccination Center has administered the most COVID-19 shots in Texas.

In December 2020, when the COVID-19 vaccine became available for mass distribution in the United States, Dallas County Health and Human Services (DCHHS) strategically selected Fair Park as a mega-vaccination site to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to those most at risk of severe illness. Its central location allowed underserved zip codes to have easier access to the site and the vaccine. Operations started as a walk-up and transitioned to a drive-thru site when the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other federal partners arrived to ramp up operations.

Fair Park is the largest vaccination site in the state of Texas and one of the most productive in the United States. Below are some key achievements from the Fair Park vaccination site:

  • 487,000 people have received the COVID-19 vaccine at Fair Park since January 11, 2021.
  • Administered a record number of over 12,000 vaccines in one day.
  • Averaged 8,000 vaccinations per day.

The Dallas County mega-vaccination site at Fair Park started as a walk-up location and then transitioned into a drive-thru model as more vaccines became available and demand from the community increased.

Richard Esparza, DCHHS Assistant Director for Public Health Emergency Preparedness and the Joint Incident Commander at Fair Park, provided insight on setting up Fair Park as a mega-vaccination site:

“Back in December 2020, when first asked about setting up a COVID-19 vaccination site in Dallas County, our team quickly realized we could not provide this level of service within the walls of DCHHS. Within four days we identified Fair Park as the best location and DCHHS, with the help of several other Dallas County departments, began setting up the site. Vaccinations began in our walk-up site at Fair Park on January 11, 2021. Our team thought we were doing great things when we were able to vaccinate 500, 1,000 and then 2,500 persons per day. But as the crowds continued to grow, we knew we had to migrate to a drive-thru vaccination site, so the Logistics Team went to work. We quickly went from vaccinating 2,500 persons per day in the walk-up site to 12,000+ persons per day in the drive-thru site. Now, after being open a little over five months, we are close to hitting a milestone of 500,000 vaccinations administered. Knowing that I was part of a mission that has helped to save lives in our community and beyond our borders fills me with great pride.

Richard Esparza, DCHHS Assistant Director for Public Health Emergency Preparedness and the Joint Incident Commander at Fair Park

Watch this video that documents our 400k-vaccination celebration at Fair Park.

Our department is working to expand vaccination options in our community and to address vaccine hesitancy.

DCHHS is partnering with state and local vendors to provide COVID-19 vaccinations in the community, and we are prioritizing the locations of these clinics in the zip codes with the lowest vaccination rates. To help address vaccine hesitancy, we are partnering with trusted leaders in the community, including faith leaders, schools, recreation centers, libraries, community centers and local businesses, to host these events. DCHHS has organized 23 community pop-up vaccination clinics between May 14, 2021 and June 14, 2021.

DCHHS partnered with the Resource Center to host a pop-up vaccine clinic during a Dallas Pride celebration.

Dallas County is on track to reach herd immunity by the end of the summer of 2021.

  • 55.37% of the 12+ population in Dallas County have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • 44.77% of the 12+ population in Dallas County are fully vaccinated.
  • 81.26% of the 65+ population in Dallas County have received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • 68.63% of the 65+ population in Dallas County are fully vaccinated.

The map above, found on the Texas Health and Human Services website, illustrates the percentage of the population vaccinated for COVID-19 in the state of Texas. 55.09% of the Texas population is vaccinated.

Our Community Outreach Teams help register the most vulnerable in Dallas County to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Beginning in January 2021, DCHHS bilingual Community Outreach Teams have gone to shopping centers, recreation centers, libraries, churches, bus stations, supermarkets and other businesses to register/make vaccination appointments for community members. These teams helped raise awareness about the COVID-19 vaccine and how to get it, but also answered community members’ questions and combated misinformation.

  • Organized 162 outreach events in Dallas County.
  • Registered and made appointments for more than 9,441 Dallas County residents.

Our department is leveraging lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic to better address public health issues in Dallas County.

  • The COVID-19 crisis highlighted the need to modernize the public health data systems that DCHHS relies on for accurate data. As the volume of cases increased, it became clear that data management systems were antiquated, including the common practice of using paper-based faxes or emailed spreadsheets to report COVID-19 cases to the health department. Innovative, technology‐based applications have enabled faster, more thorough and more real‐time contact tracing and better enabled DCHHS to provide the community with information about quarantine procedures, testing locations and wraparound services like food assistance. To improve community health outcomes and to achieve health equity, DCHHS will continue investing in technology systems that better enable staff to engage hard-to-reach populations and increase access to health care resources.
  • Early in the COVID-19 response efforts, DCHHS created a community-outreach program to conduct direct education on the COVID-19 vaccine and mitigation strategies to targeted populations. Using available grant funding, DCHHS has increased the staffing for our community-outreach program and is in the process of bringing on additional staff, like social workers and community-health educators. In addition to COVID-19 activities, these Community Outreach Teams will also conduct outreach on other common health issues, such as how to get a flu shot, West Nile prevention, diabetes prevention and behavioral-health services.

Human Resources

Director: Bob Wilson

Bob Wilson, Director of Human Resources

In February 2021 our department introduced a practical solution for the direct connection to the beginning of the application process via the implementation of QR (Quick Response) codes.

QR codes are part of the recent recruitment efforts for the Juvenile Department and provide applicants rapid access to the Dallas County career site. The introductory phase of this project in Human Resources was to create and provide a dynamic QR code. The next phase will include the possibility of creating a static QR code that is trackable.

Recent statistics on QR codes indicate widespread usage grew 28% from 2018-2019. This has brought brand awareness to many companies and will enable our applicants to directly connect to us when applying for jobs within Dallas County. 

Benefits of using a QR Code:

  • Can be read and understood by mobile devices, increasing mobile engagement.
  • Provides handsfree access and contactless delivery of Dallas County vacancies.
  • Ease of use for applicants completing an employment application.
  • Ease of direct access to information on the Dallas County career site, minimizing difficulty.
  • Automates useful tasks and engages active applicants.
  • Once scanned, it opens the Dallas County career site and drops the applicant to the direct landing page.
  • Easily read on mobile devices.
  • Drives value to Dallas County applicant users.
  • Replaces lengthy website links (no need to type out a long universal resource locator (URL)) and may also assist the visually impaired.

Our department is implementing a new diversity-focused recruitment strategy to meet the unique hiring challenges of each department (e.g., attracting a diverse applicant base). 

In an effort to deploy a targeted recruitment strategy for applicant diversity, Dallas County will partner with a marketing firm, Persuava.

  • This firm offers a wide range of Hispanic marketing services. Persuava will develop a comprehensive bilingual digital campaign and create advertisements and flyers that may be posted on social media channels, specifically on Facebook and Instagram. The goal is to provide side-by-side English/Spanish content that will promote Dallas County’s employment opportunities, starting with opportunities within the Juvenile Department. 
An image of the Persuava Juvenile Department recruitment campaign
  • Persuava’s geotargeting strategy pertaining to the desired audience will be critical to attracting a diverse group of applicants. Geotargeting can involve age, location (broad level: country/state; granular level: city/zip code), gender, language and other criteria that will send campaigns to potential applicants.
  • Persuava will provide additional services, including the creation of the foundation of our department’s Facebook and Instagram channels and will assign a web-administrator role to these channels. The type of content posted will be targeted for networking purposes and will involve employment opportunities and selected hiring events. All content will be preapproved by Human Resources and/or Dallas County administrators and exclusively owned by Dallas County, which will ensure Dallas County maintains full autonomy in posting any content apart from the Persuava campaign.

Our department has invested in memberships with local Hispanic chambers of commerce, such as the Irving Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (IHCC) and the Greater Dallas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (GDHCC), to further support our shared goal of increasing applicant diversity.

We have an opportunity to partner, network and develop connections with local professionals and businesses in these organizations who can help spread the word about the availability of employment opportunities within Dallas County. 

The GDHCC launched the Candid Cross-Cultural Conversations Series, which features conversational webinars on topics such as the future of diversity,  equity and inclusion in Dallas and has featured in its newsletter that Dallas County’s Juvenile Department is currently hiring.

The IHCC has partnered with our department and offers a wide array of services with its membership. The IHCC provides Dallas County with job-posting access and is currently working on a personalized recruitment video in which the Dallas County Juvenile Department will be featured. This will put a spotlight on the benefits of working in the Dallas County Juvenile Department and can be shared through social media channels. Currently, employees of the Juvenile Department are collecting pictures that may be used in the IHCC video to promote job opportunities within the department. The IHCC also invited Dallas County to be one of the employers represented at the Irving Mall Job Fair on June 18, 2021.

Our department is using analytical data to assist with workforce planning by optimizing the Taleo Recruiting Platform.

In 2020, our department partnered with IBM to optimize the Taleo Recruiting Platform, a platform used to assist Dallas County in optimizing the hiring process and finding and attracting candidates. The optimization will also streamline the recruiting process, reduce the time to hire, decrease errors and provide Dallas County with a dashboard for measuring diversity hiring and other HR metrics. Our department is focusing on collecting, monitoring and analyzing data to assist with the creation of action items to improve Dallas County’s workforce.

Our department is growing a culture of learning through LinkedIn Learning.

Leaders at Dallas County are working hard to foster and support a learning and self-development environment for all employees. Great emphasis is being placed on offering learning systems, which foster continuous growth and development.

How will we get there? We’re glad you asked. Over the next few months, you will hear more about an exciting resource called LinkedIn Learning. This powerful online learning platform has over 15,000 self-paced video courses, designed by leaders in learning content and taught by expert instructors. A few courses offer continuing education (CEU credits) for certification. We’re excited about this dynamic learning platform Dallas County will launch in the fall, and we know you will be too.

Listed below are just a few courses offered through LinkedIn Learning. 

  • Creating a High-Performance Culture
  • Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging
  • Serving Customers in a Continuously Changing World
  • Master Microsoft Excel
  • How to Be an Adaptable Employee During Change and Uncertainty
  • Managing Performance
  • The Six Morning Habits of High Performers
  • Leadership Fundamentals
  • Time Management
  • …and many more!

Note: 60+ new courses are added per week. All courses are self-paced, so you can learn when it suits you with the option to go back and relearn something if you need a refresher. We encourage all Dallas County employees to invest in the foundational skills and knowledge that are important to them, both for their careers and to facilitate better workplace habits. LinkedIn Learning has a lot to offer, and Dallas County is ready to take advantage of this powerful resource. Stay tuned for more information regarding our launch of LinkedIn Learning!

Our department proudly contributed to the creation and implementation of a safety program that was designed to safely reopen the county’s government buildings after they closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Effective FY2021, our department assisted with the roll out of an official safety program with a safety officer. Our department’s Safety Division was a partner on the task force dedicated to aiding in the reopening of the county’s government buildings after the pandemic. Our Safety Division provided risk assessments for each designated building, including the courts. The assessments consisted of a collaboration between the Fire Marshall’s Office, Facilities Management, The Olson Group and the safety officer. One of the primary duties performed by this task force was to develop safety protocols for reopening procedures.

Our department’s Safety Division and the Automotive Service Center (ASC) Department partnered to facilitate the implementation of the 5S program in September 2020.

The 5S program is a systematic approach to workplace organization that focuses on value added processes and increasing efficiency. The program has led to the implementation of safety measures within the ASC Department. Some of the safety measures implemented include:

  • Adding personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Increasing safety awareness.
  • Safety audits.

The introduction of these safety measures increased safety awareness and compliance by 95%. The funding/purchase of PPE allowed employees to be 100% safety compliant in the 5S program. Overall, the Safety Program will assist Dallas County in meeting Objective 4 of the Dallas County Objectives and Key Results: improving workplace safety for employees and visitors.

Information Technology

Director: Melissa Kraft

Melissa Kraft, Chief Information Officer of the Office of Information Technology

In late March 2021, our office hired consulting firm Info-Tech Research Group to assist in the creation of a new information technology (IT) strategic plan. 

Info-Tech Research Group will engage with Dallas County’s IT Department and county stakeholders to utilize best practice processes and methodologies and ensure that the new IT strategic plan reflects the needs of our county stakeholders. This will assist in developing a complete and comprehensive IT strategy that provides a holistic view of the current IT environment, the future direction, and the initiatives required to achieve the desired to-be state. We appreciate the support of the various departments that have participated in over 29 interviews and surveys so far.

In an effort to be transparent, drive efficiency, communicate and collaborate with our stakeholders, our office updated our project website to include a new IT project-management dashboard. 

The dashboard outlines all projects and project requests that IT has received. This dashboard also includes metrics and insights that are specific to each IT project.

Our office developed a business intelligence (BI) and data analytics practice and strategy, which resulted in the implementation of two major BI dashboards. 

BI is an enabling technology that will help Dallas County understand the current state of the business or process and provides a solid foundation to predict future outcomes. BI can deliver greater insight into institutional performance as well as capture, curate and generate actionable insights to enable data-driven decision making. BI solutions can also scale across organizational boundaries to represent significant cost savings and enable data accessibility.

Our office selected Microsoft Power BI (MS Power BI) as the tool of choice. MS Power BI is a cloud-based tool that integrates with existing infrastructure environments, allowing agile analytics and reporting capabilities. MS Power BI dashboards can be customized to meet the exact need of any department. Deployment and utilization of MS Power BI dashboards will increase data transparency including the ability to securely access information from any mobile device at any time. To date, our office has implemented the following two major BI dashboards:

  • The Jail Population Dashboard. This dashboard represents a holistic view of Dallas County jail-population management analytics from a high, executive level to drill down data points and details.
  • The Dallas County COVID-19 Vaccine Administration Dashboard. This dashboard represents data analytics on how Dallas County is doing in the fight against COVID-19. It displays the number of shots administered by Dallas County to its constituents.

Our office’s Business Intelligence (BI) Team began training several departments on the self-service portion of Microsoft Power BI (MS Power BI). 

The self-service BI solution empowers end users to conduct in-depth analysis and reporting, thereby reducing the need for local or central reporting support. The prime objective of the deployment of this platform for Dallas County is to aid in making better decisions and improving operational efficiencies for Dallas County. Other objectives include:

  • Making better strategic, tactical and effective decisions at all levels.
  • Defining and identifying quality information as needed.
  • Producing a single source of information that will reduce conflicting interpretations of data.
  • Increasing transparency, which will enable the county to monitor and manage its strategic planning initiatives in a “real-time” environment with accurate and current data.

Our office is ensuring the successful execution of Dallas County’s commitment to providing free access to Wi-Fi in most county facilities to improve citizens’ experiences. 

The value of strong and stable internet access was realized during the early days of the pandemic when students had to attend classes online and when the kitchen table became the new conference room. Education and employment are facilitated by access to public Wi-Fi, and in some cases, it is the only broadband on which people can rely. Facilities will install new signage in county facilities that identifies locations in which “hotspots” are available. 

Wireless Status of Dallas County Facilities:

  • Frank Crowley Courts Building (FCCB): All wireless access points (WAPs) have been mounted and are online. Visual surveys of the floors have been completed to ensure all WAPs are working.
  • George Allen Courts Building (GACB): All WAPs have been mounted and are online except in the Judges’ Garage due to construction in that area. Visual surveys of the floors were completed to ensure all WAPs are working (143 WAPs).
  • Henry Wade Juvenile Justice Center (HWJJC): Cabling has started to support hotspot installations.
  • Grand Prairie: All WAPs have been mounted and are online.
  • Health and Human Services (HHS) – 8th floor: Hardware was ordered.
  • Academy: All WAPs were mounted and are online (17 WAPs).
  • Letot: Base-coverage plan is complete. Onsite surveys need to be completed.
  • North Dallas Government Center – 4th floor: Hardware was ordered; awaiting delivery.
  • Records Building: Will add approximately 230 WAPs in early 2022.

Our department recognizes Information Systems Coordinator Lee Ann Wilson for her exceptional work that led to streamlined, state-mandated racial-profile reporting in 2017 with updates in 2019.

In January 2021, Lee Ann received the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department’s Citizens Certificate of Merit Award for her daily support of the Sheriff’s Office and Frank Crowley Courts Building (FCCB) communications department. Lee Ann was instrumental in identifying the ability to use an existing technology application to streamline state-mandated racial-profile reporting in 2017. By customizing the existing application on handheld devices carried by Dallas County Deputies, the Sheriff’s Department was able to recognize a significant cost savings. For more, read the Dallas County Messenger’s conversation with Lee Ann.

Lee Ann Wilson, Information Systems Coordinator