Local Governments Work Together to Fight Recession

Chuck Raasch looks at how combining services can help local governments "to capitalize on the economics of scale and offset declining revenue since the Great Recession."
October 23, 2012, 1pm PDT | Jessica Hsu
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Seeing the sixth consecutive year of declining revenue, local governments are preparing themselves for a "going it alone" future of reduced budgets, bereft of federal and state aid, as described by policy analysts Bruce J. Perlman and J. Edwin Benton. With residents beginning to notice stretched city budgets, communities that have relied on "quick-fix" strategies such as cutting positions and putting off capital expenditures are looking to partner with their neighbors to help maintain and expand services.

"Across the country," writes Raasch, "counties and other local governments are combining services from 911 call centers to basic purchasing." This solution is expected nowadays, says Jay Ash, the City Manager of Chelsea, MA, who has joined forces with the City of Boston to buy greener LED lights for the city's 1,400 streetlights. These types of partnerships will only grow in the future, contends Michael Abels, a former city manager in DeLand, Florida. "He predicts that service sharing between local governments will expand to health care and roads as cities confront backlogs in infrastructure needs."

"There are a lot of pressures (to combine services), but there has not been a notable shift to it as of yet," says Perlman, "That said, I am willing to go out on a limb and say that is the next step. What has happened to local governments is the fat has sort of been wrung out, and so there is nothing else left to do. So collaboration is the next step."

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Published on Friday, October 19, 2012 in USA Today
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