Creative cost saving ideas inside small governments?
January 13, 2009 5:48 PM   Subscribe

Especially now, during this time of economic downtown, it would seem to me that many small cities across the nation are probably struggling with budget shortfalls. Are their online resources, forums or blogs that deal with collecting and discussing creative cost-saving measures for small cities ? I'd be especially interested in internal measures as opposed to citizen-related (external) programs, but any good links for either type would be appreciated.

The city I work for has an internal program for soliciting ideas about cost savings. I'd like to submit some well-prepared and solidly researched ideas (to increase the chances of my ideas being accepted). I've done a small amount of preliminary internet searches but I'm not a financier by trade so I am pretty sure I'm not using the correct terminology (thus my searches are only returning spotty isolated case results/studies).

Although I've found a few singular city websites that list a minimal description of cost saving projects - what I'm really interested in are "collective" type forums (or similar) where the Pros and Cons of various cost saving ideas are discussed. (if a forum-beast of this type even exists).

If something like that doesnt exist, I'm willing to put in the work bookmarking and reading various blogs/websites to collate the information. What I'm worried about is finding isolated cases and then having to figure out "would that work for us?". (as opposed to finding a collective type forum where I could see better solutions that worked for multiple cities across the nation)

4 day work weeks?, Using hybrid cars?... Creating an "Innovation Team" that interviews various internal city departments to find wasteful processes and generates ideas to bring more efficiency? Intra-net website ideas that promote city-employee involvement/discussion?

If you are the type of person who works in this capacity for your city,.. perhaps you'll share stories about your daily job, or suggest more precise search words I can use to find better results.
posted by jmnugent to Work & Money (1 answer total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The reason you aren't going to find much here is that the kinds of costs you can save through such measures are minuscule compared to the kind of shortfalls we're talking about, and the only way governments can save enough money to be worth talking about is to either 1) fire people, or 2) cut services. As the latter generally involves the former, it really just comes down to firing (or not hiring) people.

Switching to four day work weeks will save them maybe 10% on their utility bills--don't have to light the building on Friday, etc.--but unless they cut salaries, this will be trivial. Hybrid cars save a trivial amount of money on gas compared to the actual cost of buying them in the first place. It's way cheaper to just keep using the gas guzzler for another few years than it is to buy a new vehicle fleet. Creating an "innovation team" will probably cost the city money, as it diverts people who could be doing something useful to interfere with people who are trying to do something useful, assuming it doesn't actually involve hiring new people.

There are a lot of truly service minded, career civil servants on city payrolls, and my hat goes off to them (especially as I may well wind up being one in the future). But there is also a huge amount of sheer dead weight, as it is almost impossible for municipalities to fire any of their employees, and the amount of work they have to do is just shameful. Customer service? If you think the DMV is bad, trying to get a municipal government to do anything makes getting your vehicle registered look like falling off a log. Firing a single employee could easily save a city $50,000 in salary and benefits. Who needs marginal "cost savings" bullshit when the real numbers are in personnel?
posted by valkyryn at 6:53 PM on January 13, 2009

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