Strapped cities look to share services
Snyder’s proposed budget plan encourages more to seek savings
Micki Steele / The Detroit News
It took six years, $1 million in startup costs and a lot of persuasion before Eastpointe, Roseville and St. Clair Shores agreed to share emergency dispatch services last year.
But the payoff — efficiency and long-term savings — far outweighed the pain, resulting in a 25 percent savings in St. Clair Shores alone, officials say.
“It’s a very difficult thing to do,” said Ben Hughes, St. Clair Shores city manager and chairman of the South East Regional Emergency Services Authority, formed in December.
“This particular effort started with nine or 10 communities.”
Consolidating services isn’t a new concept in Metro Detroit. But it’s taking on greater urgency this year as city budgets stretch to the breaking point and Gov. Rick Snyder uses state funding as a carrot to encourage communities to work together.
The governor’s 2012 budget proposal, unveiled last month, includes a $200 million incentive-based revenue sharing program for local governments that adopt “best practices” in regard to consolidation. He is expected to release more details this month to clarify his offer.
Communities would continue to get state-shared revenue guaranteed by the state Constitution, but Snyder wants to replace so-called statutory funds — which are distributed by the Legislature based on the amount cities received the previous year — with incentives for pooling services.
With property values in the region down 32 percent since 2007, local governments are under more pressure than ever to “try every tool in the toolbox to balance their budgets and continue to provide services,” said Paul Tait, executive director of the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments.
“Local governments had been collaborating on the easy, low-hanging fruit — the things that weren’t really noticeable, like sharing building inspectors or joint payroll processing,” he said. “Now, increasingly, they’re looking at the bigger-ticket items like police and fire.”
Cities that forgo full consolidation of public safety are at least looking at joint purchases of expensive specialty equipment, Tait said, noting police and fire services in many communities account for one-half to two-thirds of budgets.
With city’s running around trying to find the best plan that will have them stand out from the crowd to get some money thrown at it. There is still that big stick out there called Financial Manager. Two words that have every elected official running for cover. To make matter worse the city that has one of these Financial managers pushed on them has to pay for it the state is not picking up the bill for this. An amendment offered to limit the pay of any administrator appointed to take over local government to the amount the governor makes went down in flames. The bill allows not only a person, but a corporation to be appointed as the administrator. Not to forget the State is not picking up the bill for any of it.
These administrators will be able to dismiss elected officials. Break any contracts with companies and unions. Eliminate, merge or change political regions, charters and borders. They can combine school systems, merge towns or eliminate them. Police departments could be eliminated – Sell public property – utilities. All without any votes by the citizens or their elected representatives. So if a financial manager comes here to Dearborn Heights they could dismiss the Mayor, and if they did not he would at the very least be stripped of all his powers here in the city. Making it worthless to keep paying him if we are going to have to pay someone else to come in and do this. I have heard over the last few weeks many people here in the city saying it would be a good idea for one of these administrators to come in to our city. I understand their way of thinking most point to the DROP program as an example of just one thing that they would like done away with. Others point to the fact that the mayor is the problem and this would be one way to get rid of him.
Most of you know I am not a fan of the mayor was not always that way I used to believe every word that he said and was a very big supporter of his. Things have changed I no longer feel the same way about him but to let some financial manager come into my city and start dismissing our elected officials NO. To let a financial manager come into the city and basically tell me, your vote does not count for anything, what happens to the right of the voter people. The way I look at it the voters put the mayor and all the rest of the elected officials in office and the voters are the ones that should take them out. If that is done through Recall or by just running a campaign against them either way it is done by the voters not some FM. The frustration of the taxpayers is everywhere out in the city. I hear it all the time, and the anger that some have over how the workers of the city are being treated. Some residents are angry that all the savings is coming on the backs of the workers in the city. Residents have noticed that the police are not being touched in any way not sure about that I can not believe that they are not going to have to give up something.
I go back over the past two years the Mayor on more than one occasion said that this was coming he kept talking about state funds. Yet nothing was done as far back as two years ago to per-pair the city for this.
in order to be considered for some of the 200 million that the state is going to be giving out. As I said before the Governor is looking for transparency in city governments something much lacking in Dearborn Heights. The budget online the check register council agenda packets. Gee think if the city had all that up and running the city would be in a far better position. The city does not even have the infrastructure to handle doing it. After a year of waiting for an IT department looks like it will not happen. If the simple thing like check register online can not get done even after it was promised by the mayor more than a year ago. If the city does not get any of the 200 million then what? What kind of budget can you put together if you are not sure if you are going to get any kind of state money? Not just transparency, but consolidation the buzz word for 2011 consolidation that is time-consuming to say the least. At the last council meeting they approved the payment of more money to do yet another study on merging the court with garden city. We are paying half the bill and there is grant monies that are going to be used to off set some of the expenses. Great so the Governor wants consolidation, but the cities have to pay from already strapped budgets to do studies to see if it is even worth while to do it. What a screwed up system.