AN OUT OF THE BOX IDEA TO AVOID LAYOFFS AT ALL LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT
Release Date: November 14, 2010
I will be at my problem solver desk at Stop & Shop today (Sunday) from 11:30 to 12:30 in Dobbs Ferry to talk to constituents about the town...our budget....problems you have and to hear your thoughts.
COMPETITION BETWEEN THE PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SECTORS ENCOURAGED
Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner will speak at the Westchester County Board of Legislators hearing on Wednesday evening in Yonkers on the county budget and will urge the Legislature to consider an out of the box idea that has worked in Indianapolis--that could help avoid layoffs and reduce costs...
In the next few months New York State, Westchester County and local governments will continue to work towards reducing costs and expenditures. Some government entities will be encouraging employees to retire and will offer their workers retirement incentive packages. County Executive Astorino just announced 226 layoffs. Governor Paterson has sent hundreds of state employees layoff notices. Governor-elect Cuomo may order additional layoffs in January.
There's another way to reduce costs: It's called competition. The state, county and municipal governments could give their civil servants the chance to save their jobs by putting up government services up to bid and allowing BOTH the private and public sector unions to compete for such services.
Former Indianapolis Mayor Steven Goldsmith (currently Mayor Bloomberg's Deputy Mayor) came up with an innovative concept in the 1990s called "marketization". It is competition in the marketplace, not privatization per se. Services are moved into the marketplace.
In Indianapolis city employees are encouraged to compete with the private sector for the right to run various municipal services. The city, during Mayor Goldsmith's tenure, motivated employees to think out of the box and gave their workforce the chance to compete with the private sector and to win.
In the early 1990s city employees won at least 25% of the competitions and split responsibility with the private sector in another 20 percent. Government workers have some advantages: the government does not pay taxes. The government does not have to make a profit and governments can borrow money for less than the private sector. On the other hand the private sector knows how to compete.
When Indianapolis started this concept they provided employees with consultants to help them prepare for competition. Another innovation-: employees receive incentive pay when they outperform their contracts. They earn more by doing more. Another nice aspect to this concept: management and non management government workers become a part of the process--the employees enhance their teamwork skills: they work with each other reviewing the purchase of equipment, materials tools and even will make constructive suggestions regarding trash collection routes.
Competition among the private and public sectors encourages creativity. Employees also must be more customer friendly. I first learned about this program in the mid 1990s, after the program was recognized by the Ford Foundation --the winner of the Innovations in American Government Award.
At a recent Greenburgh Town Board meeting (Oct 28) we invited J Dwight Hadley, CPA to speak to the Greenburgh Town Board. He was the former chair of the NY State Board of Accountacy. He is working with another upstate community on an innovative concept: the establishment of a sanitation enterprise fund. This concept, which the Greenburgh Town Board is currently reviewing, would change the way sanitation services are offered to residents and increase transparency. The town would send residents a bill for sanitation services instead of having them pay for it through town taxes. Residents/businesses would have the option of comparing the costs of our services with the private sector. If we offer a better service, individuals/residents/businesses would choose to hire the town to pick up garbage. If residents are not satisfied with our price or level of service they could have the option of contracting with the private sector.
Before we take any action more analysis has to be given to this concept. A negative: currently, residents receive a tax deduction when they pay property taxes. With an enterprise fund there are no tax deductions. I will be asking the NY State Legislature to authorize enterprise fund bills to be considered taxable services so people could receive tax deductions on the services received. I want our employees to also benefit from the concept: profit sharing--if they get more routes for the town.
Let's think out of the box. This option, at the minimum, is worth consideration. The Westchester County Board of Legislators, when considering County Executive Astorino's layoffs and program cuts, should think about developing a plan that would give the county workforce a chance to compete. Donald Trump was reported in the Journal News to be thinking of ways to improve Playland. Maybe, the employees of the county could come up with a better plan!
Greenburgh Town Supervisor
Schedule of public hearings of the County Board of Legislators (courtesy of County Legislator Tom Abinanti):
Southern County Public Hearing
Wednesday, November 17th
Location: Riverfront Library, 1 Larkin Center (corner of River and Dock Streets), Yonkers
Northern County Public Hearing
Tuesday, November 23rd
Location: Pleasantville High School, 60 Romer Avenue (corner of Romer and Clinton Street), Pleasantville
After these two hearings the Board of Legislators may amend the proposed budget. A final public hearing will be held:
Final Public Hearing
Thursday, December 9th
Location: County Board Legislative Chambers,148 Martine Avenue, 8th Floor (corner of Martine and Court Street), White Plains
All hearings start at 7:00pm and citizens are invited and encouraged to attend and comment.