Big things often come from small beginnings. Some of Rhode Island’s struggling municipalities certainly hope that’s the case with stepped-up efforts to begin sharing services for everything from trash collection, police dispatching and tax collection.
So far, results are modest. Pawtucket’s School Department and City Hall next month will be sharing a single IT department, at an annual savings of $17,000. North Kingstown now provides similar services for Exeter. Five communities, including once-bankrupt Central Falls, now share tax collection.
Savings from such efforts and others being contemplated across the state are one obvious benefit. But as John Simmons, executive director of the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council tells PBN in a story on page 5 in this issue, “It’s not just about savings. You could save money by simply reducing service levels. The real goal is to become more effective and efficient.”
This week Operation Clean Government is doing its part to highlight both the opportunities of shared services and potential hurdles at a public forum on June 27 in Smithfield. Moody’s Investors Service has noted shared services are already common in some states but that obstacles include union contracts and fear of losing control of or access to services.
It’s because of such concerns that there has been more talk than action on the subject in the state for years. In this case, it’s time independence gives way to common sense - and the common good. •