Jason Lopez named CDCR Administrator of the Year
By Krissi Khokhobashvili, CDCR Public Information Officer II
Office of Public and Employee Communications
(Editor’s note: CDCR’s annual Medal of Valor and employee recognition ceremony will be held Thursday, Sept. 15. Inside CDCR will publish profiles of some of those being honored each day leading up to the ceremony. The event will be live streamed.)
The team tasked with developing and maintaining CDCR’s large, complex budget comprises sincerely hard workers who believe in fiscal accountability and transparency. This year’s CDCR Administrator of the Year takes pride in being a leader on that team.
Deputy Director of Fiscal Services Jason Lopez is highly regarded by the Governor’s Office, Department of Finance and CDCR’s executive leadership and many divisions. The unit is instrumental to CDCR’s success in the fiscal arena, and Lopez’s commitment to ensuring upper management is apprised of the department’s fiscal health is constantly reiterated at meetings with leadership throughout CDCR.
Lopez leads a team of more than 400 employees, who in the past year have implemented new processes that resulted in keeping the budget balanced. Their work has eliminated overspending and increased accountability among programs.
He shared his insights on leadership and fiscal responsibility with Inside CDCR.
When did your career at CDCR begin, and what has been your path to your current position?
I started my career with CDCR in November of 2011 as the associate director of the department’s Budget Management Branch. From there, I was promoted to my current position of deputy director of Fiscal Services in July of 2014.
In a nutshell, what is your office responsible for?
Fiscal Services is responsible for all accounting functions on behalf of the department. On the budget side, this includes all formal budget processes associated with the development of the governor’s budget. Included is oversight of the Budget Change Proposal (BCP) process, as well as the recurring population (ECP) adjustments. The Budget Management Branch is also responsible for development and tracking of annual allotments for all offices and institutions department-wide. This includes monthly reports to the department’s executive leadership team comparing actual activities to available funds. On the accounting side, this includes planning, organizing and directing all accounting-related activities. The Accounting Services Branch forecasts cash requirements and obligations, and directs the preparation, development and presentation of the formal year-end financial statements. The deputy director of Fiscal Services also serves as the department’s primary testifier at legislative hearings. This includes coordinating attendance of program subject matter experts on behalf of each proposal.
You are credited with implementing processes that resulted in a balanced budget and eliminating overspending. How did you do that?
With the assistance and support of the department’s executive leadership team, the Budget Management Branch was able to implement process improvements that brought about a level of operational transparency and, consequently, accountability that did not previously exist. Through the development of more precise allotments and the implementation of the Availability Control (AVC) module within the department’s Business Information System, a budget endorsement step was introduced to the requisition process, thereby ensuring the availability of resources before a commitment is formally made. These tools, coupled with active monitoring of expenditures both by programs and BMB staff, has allowed the department to avoid a formal deficiency request for the past five years. This accomplishment was only possible with the buy-in and support of our program partners.
How important is communication to the success of your team, and what do you do to foster open communication?
Communication both within Fiscal Services and with our departmental and external stakeholders is paramount to a successful operation. Participation at all levels breeds open and effective communication. By convincing staff that it’s safe for them to actively engage in the work we do, the entire department benefits. I pride myself on being available to staff at all levels and for publically acknowledging the efforts of those actually responsible for doing the work. I have had the good fortune of being surrounded by a group of highly skilled professionals who are committed to doing their jobs well.
How does it feel to have your hard work honored in such a way?
Working with such a dedicated and talented group of individuals has been a humbling experience. To have my efforts recognized by the department’s executive team is extremely flattering. Knowing the caliber of people with whom I share this department makes it all the more rewarding. There are literally thousands of other CDCR employees who work tirelessly absent this type of recognition.