To start the process, the committee just brainstormed. They took a
hard look at every aspect of county business that they could think
of, taking both bird's-eye and close-up views, and then also made a
conscious effort at an inside-out perspective on all county
Simple and not so simple ideas flowed from the start, and at each
meeting the list was reviewed, expanded, culled or refined a little
more. Some processes that were either not allowable or too complex
were thrown out. Some ideas are not yet fully developed, some are
being moved on, and others have reached a more concrete form but
need input from others.
Broader thoughts included some form of central purchasing to buy
common goods in bulk; bringing all negotiated union contracts to
expire the same year; and getting a comprehensive IT needs
assessment performed, which would include GIS, phone and computer
Narrower possibilities include combining postage meter usage;
more electronic document sharing rather than paper copying; and a
reduction of the number of phone lines, since cutting one phone line
could save $600 per year.
Carlton said that IP phone lines are his goal for the county. The
computer-based phones would cost much less. Currently it's only $1
per month to list phone numbers and then it's minutes used.
"But we're not there yet. We have other IT needs that we need to
face and focus on here," he said.
Bateman spearheaded thoughts for a central purchasing action. He
said that it would be important to get all the department heads
together and say: "Collectively, we need to start saving money and
working together." If we can all save money, out of everybody's
department, it's going to benefit everyone, he said.
Other committee members agreed strongly when Bateman said that
the county board needs to set the example, such as by reducing the
number of copies of minutes and communications produced for each
One of the questions that frequently had to be asked was how
something might be accomplished. Using the above as an example,
Ruben cited that the treasurer's office, which is responsible for
mailing out publication notices, has postage costs of $6,000 and
office supply costs of $2,000 per year. With eight departments, that
represents $64,000. He said that if the costs would be reduced
enough through consolidation processes, we could probably hire some
part-time help with that.
The committee will also be assessing its office space and
building usage. The cleaning, security, electricity, gas, building
and grounds maintenance, and insurance expenses add up for multiple
county-owned facilities. There is the combined highway department
building with zoning offices; the safety complex with the sheriff's
department, EMA and 911 communications; the courthouse with
treasurer, board room, county clerk, circuit clerk and several
court-related offices; the assessor's office in the John Logan
Building; and the regional school superintendent's office.
Rearrangements have been and will continue to be considered.
The most likely possibility would be to meld the school
superintendent's office, which represents Logan, Mason and Menard
counties, with Logan being the largest participant. Menard just
closed its satellite office and will be asked to supply more support
for its use of the facility here. It is thought that there might be
suitable space in one of the other buildings, such as the highway
department, by moving the zoning office to the John Logan Building.
Jan Schumacher has been working on plans to secure an energy
audit of county buildings and the possibility of grants that might
provide zone heating and cooling with separate room monitors in the
courthouse, or replace windows and such.
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The committee plans also include looking at what each department
has in contractual services. It was recently said that $10,000 a
year is spent cleaning the John Logan Building. Bateman thought that
$200 a week was too high for general cleaning for a building of that
size and use. The goal would be to assess other possibilities that
might reduce these costs.
A thorough assessment is needed of the county's IT needs and
current expenses. One of the things department heads will also be
asked to assess is their computer technology needs and contracts.
Most of the offices are using specialized, government-specific
software and have their own service support contracts. In some cases
these costs might be reduced by hiring a person who would provide
some of the basic, everyday type of support and service that is
needed in offices.
Another area of controllable expense would be to look at vehicle
service contracts. Bateman, whose expertise is in vehicle service,
thought that there might be the possibility to negotiate better
service contracts. This would mostly involve the sheriff and highway
Department heads and officials will also be asked to look for
where fees might be increased or added. They would also be
encouraged to seek more grant funding to improve revenues.
Committee members agree that each official understands their
department's needs the best, and the committee will ask for their
assistance in assessing the potential of proposed cost-cutting
processes and review of contracts.
Carlton and other committee members thought it might be possible
to offer an incentive for some of the savings that could be created,
and those savings might then be credited back to the departments to
put in their budgets.
With each meeting, many of the ideas the task force has generated
have become more concrete. In June it was decided that it is time to
schedule another meeting with department heads to present requests
and ask for their participation.
Bateman summed it up well when he said: "I just think we need to
buckle down and work on this list. Show the public that we're doing
exactly what they do at home by trying to make it (county
government) run better and run cheaper without reducing services."
The committee believes that the cost savings and new revenues
that may be found in this process would not only help meet rising
costs, but would likely prevent cuts in services or the need for new
tax increases that other local governments may be facing in the near