When it comes to public services, Ohioans want quality and efficiency. Whether these criteria are met best by each governing entity providing services individually or in conjunction with other entities makes little difference to most people.
House Bill 509, recently passed through the Ohio House, gives local governments the ability to team up with other municipalities to provide shared services. In the process, they will gain greater flexibility to manage their costs while still providing quality services.
Therefore, HB 509, among other things, allows local health departments to venture outside their traditional borders to share or contract staff. If the manpower to provide health-related services is available and capable, then every effort should be made to utilize them and keep public costs low. In a similar way, the bill also allows county auditors to serve as fiscal agents for other offices within the county and permits the auditor to share employees across county lines.
The aforementioned Buckeye Institute report also highlighted the success that these kinds of changes have had on Marion County, the first county in the state to consolidate its services. By combining health departments, for example, the county saved $150,000 in the first year-and-a-half. It is important not to automatically associate cuts in costs with a diminishing of services. Through Marion County’s consolidation process, much of what was cut were excess expenditures taken on by providing duplicative services. This allowed the county to avoid the prospect of tax increases while still not losing quality services.
The biennial budget passed in 2011 laid the groundwork for consolidating services through what was called the Local Government Innovation Fund. The program provided loans and grants to local governments wanting to consolidate. Now, through House Bill 509, the final measures have been put in place to help local municipalities realistically manage their costs.