Outsourcing, Consolidation Update From Around the U.S.

Outsourcing and consolidation remain top of mind in cities around the country. This week we provide the latest update on efforts from Georgia to California. Among the departments and functions under consideration this week: Utility bills, emergency dispatch, public works, and more.

What Happened?
News of outsourcing and consolidation efforts showed no sign of abating last week, as myriad reports and disclosures illustrated the efforts being undertaken to cut costs and improve service delivery.

Who Cares?
EfficientGov tracks these efforts to provide readers ideas, comparables, and—in some cases—ammunition that can be used to support internal deliberations.

We’ll start with the latest outsourcing efforts. As always, these and other efforts can be found in the Outsourcing & Privatization section of our Web site, which is in the left-hand column. In no particular order:

  • Public Works in California: The community of Oakdale, Calif., which is only 45 minutes from embattled Stockton, has agreed to explore outsourcing its 30-person Public Works Department. According to reports, the cost-saving measures could include the outsourcing of functions such as parks, streets and utilities, and waste-water treatment, among others. The current Public Works budget is approximately $5.9 million, with about half going to salaries, wages, benefits, and other compensation. Outsourcing or consolidation of public works is not a new trend. As EfficientGov has reported, an Ohio city recently outsourced sewer maintenance to a nearby town, and Connecticut town merged its public works and utilities departments to save money.
  • Police in California: Elsewhere in California, the city of Baldwin Park is considering outsourcing its police functions to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. The city, which is in LA County, is facing a $1 million deficit, and, according to published reports, “85 percent of increased personal expenses are attributable to the city’s police department.” Other towns in California have already proposed police mergers, and a county in New Jersey recently recommended merging 19 police departments into single county-wide department. Several Maine towns are also looking to share police departments.
  • Utility Bills in Tennessee: Last week, the city of Newbern approved the outsourcing of utility bills. The cost to print and mail utility bills for the small community of 3,300 was only $20,000, but that did not include labor. According to reports, the town is already short-handed, and the outsourcing will “free up” staff members. Several bids were reviewed by the town, which ultimately selected a firm called High Cotton; the firm is also used by nearby communities.

In addition to numerous outsourcing announcements last week (above), several consolidation developments were tracked by EfficientGov:

  • Emergency Dispatch in California: A grand jury report has recommended further consolidation of police dispatch services to save money. According to the report, San Mateo County is served by 13 separate dispatch centers that field calls and send out emergency staff; that’s down from 22 dispatch centers over the last decade. Further consolidation would eliminate redundancy and save money—up to $11.59 per call. The report also advocated use of Public Safety Communications Centers, instead of local departmental dispatch. As EfficientGov has reported, other California towns like Mountain View have also recommended combining dispatch services.
  • Parks and Public Safety in Michigan: The city of Grosse Pointe recently agreed to conduct a study that could combine the park and public safety departments. According to reports, the study will cost approximately $22,250, “of which 25 percent will be paid through a state Economic Vitality Incentive Program grant.” EfficientGov has covered several such departmental consolidations, including a four-department merger in Natick, Mass., that featured similar departments.
  • Fire Departments in New York: New Rochelle, New York, is also considering a study that would look at combining its fire department with a neighboring town. The city is looking at consolidating other departments as well; according to a recent report, “Everything is on the table.” Many other cities have combined fire departments, including Allen Park, Michigan, and others.
  • Battles Against Consolidation: Two recent anti-consolidation developments are worth noting here, as well. In Macon, Georgia, city and county employees recently marched with local AFL-CIO leaders to protest the consolidation of Macon, Payne City, and Bibb County. According to media reports, the consolidated budgets will yield significant cost cuts. And in Toledo, Ohio, county officials have gone to court to fight the consolidation of municipal courts. The battle is less one of consolidation, though, and more focused on the process of appointing judges.

EfficientGov will continue to track consolidation and privatization developments; both topics can be found under “Hot Topics” in the left-hand column of our Web site.

About the author

Barry Greenfield

Barry Greenfield is Director of Government Cloud at Praetorian Digital and formerly founder and publisher of EfficientGov.com.

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