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Lawmakers To Study How Towns Can Share Services

The General Assembly is looking at how municipalities can share services to cut costs.

The following is from a State House press release. 

The General Assembly is embarking on an effort to assist municipalities and school districts in sharing services.

The new Joint Commission on Shared Municipal Services will make recommendations to the General Assembly on legislation that could help cities and towns cut the costs involved in providing municipal services by getting together and sharing them.

Created by legislation (2011-S 01712011-H 5715) sponsored last year by Sen. Louis P. DiPalma and Rep. Raymond E. Gallison Jr. and passed by the Assembly, the permanent panel was a recommendation of a special commission led by Senator DiPalma last year that studied the sharing of services among Rhode Island municipalities.

“There is a lot of potential for cities and towns to save money, particularly on administrative costs, if they are able to team up and share resources and services. Maybe trash collection and other services would be cheaper if several towns went in together and took advantage of the economy of scale. There’s an almost endless array of possibilities, and there will be a lot of work to do to implement sharing if communities are interested. I expect that that this commission will have a plenty to do in the coming years as communities look for ways to conserve resources and do more with less,” said Senator DiPalma. 

The commission, named recently by Sen. M. Teresa Paiva Weed and House Speaker Gordon D. Fox, will include Senator DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton), Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham), Sen. Beatrice A. Lanzi (D-Dist. 26, Cranston), Sen. Frank Lombardo III (D-Dist. 25, Johnston), Sen. Dawson Tucker Hodgson (R-Dist. 35, North Kingstown, East Greenwich, Warwick), Representative Gallison (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth), Rep. Richard P. Morrison (D-Dist. 68, Bristol, Warren), Rep. Lisa P. Tomasso (D-Dist. 29, Coventry, West Greenwich), Rep. Patricia L. Morgan (R-Dist. 26, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) and Rep. Robert D. Phillips (D-Dist. 51, Woonsocket).

The earlier special commission recommended that the new commission begin its work by initially addressing four areas for potential sharing: information technology (IT), public safety dispatch, tax assessment and tax collections, with a goal of a 20-percent savings in five years in those areas of government through shared services.

No date has yet been set for the commission’s first meeting.

Senator DiPalma and Representative Gallison are also sponsoring several pieces of legislation recommended by the commission Senator DiPalma led, all aimed at helping communities with the first steps toward sharing services to save money.

“Many times, municipalities and school districts have said they think they could save money or provide better services if they could team up with another town or district. But there’s often something standing in the way, like differences between contracts or the way the parties involved track their spending, or other hurdles. This legislation handles some of those roadblocks, and we expect the commission to tackle the more complicated ones over time,” said Rep. Gallison.

The bills include:

  • 2012-S 2036/2012-H 7144 – This legislation provides for the creation of a group similar to the RhodeIslandInterlocal Risk Management Trust, and insurance cooperative to which many communities belong, to administer other post-employment benefits for member municipalities. This would allow for the sharing of administrative costs for retiree benefits other than pensions – mainly health care and life insurance.
  • 2012-S 2038/2012-H 7579 – This bill is similar to the bill above, but for schools instead of municipalities.
  • 2012-S 2316/2012-H 7569 – This bill creates a uniform chart of accounts for municipalities, so every municipality in the state would record its expenditures and income in the same form. Such a system would make it simpler to compare costs and incomes across school districts, and would also make it easier for municipalities to contract for some services together if they wish. A similar system is already in place for school districts.
Joe Sousa. February 23, 2012 at 09:05 PM
Round and round and round they go Nothing gets done and the bills still grow. In the United States there are some 3,100 counties (254 in Texas alone); most are rural or suburban, but except where, as in Virginia, a city may be independent (not part of a county), every part of a state is also part of a county. Some cities, like New York (where the five boroughs are also counties) comprise more than one county. Louisiana, influenced by the French, has instead parishes, which are essentially similar to counties; Alaska has boroughs. The major functions of county government in the United States include law enforcement,fire dept the recording of deeds and other documents, and the provision and maintenance of public works such as roads and parks.

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