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.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks
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    SCULPTORS—Morenci third grade students Emersyn Thompson (left) and Marissa Lawrence turn spaghetti sticks into mini sculptures Friday during a class visit to Stair District Library. All Morenci Elementary School classes recently visited the library to experience the creative construction toys purchased through the “Sculptamania!” project, funded by a Disney Curiosity Creates grant. The grant is administered by the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association.
  • Funcolor
    LEONIE LEAHY was one of three local hair stylists who volunteered time Friday at the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Her customer, Aubrey Sandusky, looks up at her mother while her hair takes on a perfect match to her outfit. Leahy said she had a great time at the event—nothing but happy clients.
  • Shadow.salon
    LEARNING THE ROPES—Kristy Castillo (left), co-owner of Mane Street Salon, works with Kendal Kuhn as Sierra Orner takes a phone call. The two Morenci Area High School juniors spent Friday at the salon as part of a job shadowing experience.
  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.

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