Collaboration: Don't rush the process 2011.12.14

Written by David Green.

The big word among Michigan government units and school districts these days is “collaboration.” That’s due to efforts by Governor Rick Snyder to eliminate duplicated services.

If, for example, the City of Morenci spends money for something that Medina Township also pays for, perhaps the two units of government could work together to cut costs.

Several Lenawee County school districts, including Morenci, are exploring ways to work together to save money and increase services. The ultimate collaboration for schools, in the eyes of some politicians and policy makers, is consolidation. Simply close down one school and have it join with another. Duplicated services will be eliminated—along with an important part of the community.

We aren’t saying the governor’s efforts aren’t worthy of exploring. There are many ways that collaborations can work well. Both the local school district and the City of Morenci and its various agencies have taken on collaborative efforts for years. Some have worked well; others have fallen by the wayside.

However, we do see some misguided visions with the call to collaborate, collaborate, collaborate.

For one thing, collaboration doesn’t always lead to a savings. For example,  a proposal to form a county library district was discussed recently in Adrian. If Morenci’s Stair Public Library were to become part of a county-wide system, the city could reduce expenditures by about $90,000.

That might be good in the governor’s eyes, but what about for taxpayers? Would the city respond by lowering everyone’s tax bill? Not likely, but taxpayers would end up paying an additional millage to support the county-wide library system. Government gains; the taxpayer loses.

The other potential problem with collaboration comes through a loss in services. If the Morenci Police Department were abolished—an enormous savings in city expenditures—and instead local law enforcement were handled through the county sheriff’s department, could coverage really be delivered with less money? No, it couldn’t be done while maintaining the existing level of service. Yes, it could happen along with  large cuts in police service.

Communities across the state are in a race to find collaborative efforts to report to the Governor’s office. Fulfilling requirements of the Economic Vitality Incentive Program must be done in order to receive full state funding.

It’s certainly worthy of governments’ time to explore ways of working together, but collaborations should first pass a taxpayers’ test: Will it actually save money? Will it result in a loss of services?

Politicians must remember “economic vitality” at the local level as well as in Lansing.

  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2016