Friday, June 18, 2010

Outsourcing Municipal Services

As we watch Sacramento County and the city of Sacramento struggle to deal with huge deficits calling for severe reductions in service to local residents, the model of deep outsourcing being used by the five-year old city of Sandy Springs, Georgia may be something to look at.

An excerpt from the article in Governing.

“For decades, residents of Sandy Springs, Ga., were unhappy with the poor quality and high costs of services provided by Fulton County. With a population of just 90,000 compared to the county's 900,000, Sandy Springs residents felt slighted by what was considered an unfair redistribution of tax dollars within the county.

"We were being exploited," Eva Gambolos, the former mayor of Sandy Springs told American City and County. "Sandy Springs was a cash cow for [Fulton County.]"

“In 2005, residents got tired of being milked.

“After a decades-long campaign, Sandy Springs declared political independence from Fulton County and embarked on their own little "bold experiment." The result was resounding, with 94 percent of Sandy Springers voting for incorporation.

“Newly incorporated Sandy Springs immediately embarked on another bold experiment: They contracted for virtually all non-public safety services.

“Today, nearly five years later, an expiring contract provides a chance to assess results. According to city officials, operating with an outsourcing model saves Sandy Springs an estimated $20 million per year. Sandy Spring's bold experiment in privatization has been favorably received by citizens and was recently a winner of the Pioneer Institute's Better Government Competition. …

“Prior to incorporation, a study by the University of Georgia estimated the newly incorporated city of Sandy Springs would need 828 employees. Thanks to privatization, the reality wasn't even close to that. For the past five years, all municipal services except police, fire and 911 have been provided by CH2M Hill OMI. In addition to public safety personnel, the city manager and his staff are also public employees, giving Sandy Springs 271 public employees augmented by 200 contractor positions or 471 in total -- a far cry from the expected 828.”