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.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.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in 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.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

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