The prospect of sharing services to save money and make government more efficient was barely out of their mouths, and already they’re running with the idea.
And that’s a good thing for taxpayers of Fulton County, Gloversville and Johnstown.
The Fulton County Board of Supervisors voted Monday to share a new microcomputer specialist with the two cities, a move that will allow them to collectively manage the 9-11 dispatch software and record-keeping applications used by the county sheriff’s department and the cities’ respective police forces.
Rather than have three separate individuals doing the job, or putting the task on existing personnel or risking not doing the work at all because of the prohibitive cost, the three governments decided to spend $123,000 on a single individual to do the work for all three of them. The county will pay 50% of the cost, while the two cities will equally split the remaining half.
In an editorial this past Sunday, we pushed for other communities to revive their shared services initiatives, as the state is offering new financial incentives for governments to work together on efforts like this that improve efficiency and reduce costs.
Often, governments duplicate services such as highway work, personnel and human resources, and administrative tasks that could be shared. Working together, they can often reduce the number of employees needed and reduce the overall cost of performing that particular function.
In the computer specialist case, the initiative is likely eligible for some reimbursement from the state.
But county officials fear the investment of time and expense in preparing the application might not be worth the effort.
If the state really wants to encourage small municipalities, counties and school districts to apply for funding and actually go forward with shared services, it’s going to have to streamline and simplify the application process to encourage applications.
In small governments, even a small dollar savings can make a big difference in a budget, and many small initiatives in many small communities can add up to big money statewide. The state shouldn’t reserve its funding for large shared-services initiatives.
If the process for applying for reimbursement is too arduous and expensive, then many won’t bother even going forward with a shared services plan.
And then you’re back to governments just acting independently and not even trying to work together.
How does that help taxpayers?
But even without state reimbursement, there are many initiatives that are worth pursuing, as we are seeing in Fulton County.
Officials in Fulton County, Gloversville and Johnstown deserve credit for moving forward with their shared computer specialist and for jumping up and setting an example for other communities to follow.