Category Archives: Press File

Shared Services: A Solution for Local Governments

Appearing online in the April 2013 edition of the Business News Online

It’s no secret local governments are experiencing financial challenges. Large economic, technological and political forces are threatening traditional service portfolios. Those of us working in local government management generally expect these forces to be part of a “new normal” that includes shrinking revenues, historic cuts to state-shared revenue programs, budget and subsequent service reductions, public employee labor and salary reforms.

The challenge of managing local agencies in this new environment will require local government to seriously evaluate its service offerings and assess which business practices will be preserved.

As administrator for the Village of Weston, this is a critical business issue for us as well as many other units of local government throughout the state. Because of these challenges, without alternatives, we can expect future services to be reduced or eliminated. Fortunately, I do not think we have reached the point where the only alternative is a choice of have or have not. A preferred strategy that deserves more attention and energy is an effort to merge and consolidate services among multiple communities.

The Village of Weston already has a proven track record with intergovernmental partnerships. The village jointly shares the Everest Metro Police Department with two other local communities. Our Fire and EMS department responds to calls both in and outside of our village. The village’s street department services citizens in both the village and Town of Weston. For Weston, shared services have been one of our strategies to provide existing services at a reduced cost to our taxpayers.

In an effort to build upon this success, we have explored other possibilities including sharing a director of public works management team with the Village of Kronenwetter, sharing a deputy clerk/treasurer with the City of Schofield, participating with the City of Wausau on a study of fire and rescue services throughout our metro area, and conducting a management study with the YMCA to see if it can manage our local aquatic center for less cost than the village can. We will continue to pursue all additional possibilities for shared services in the future.

By comparison, mergers and consolidations are a fixture of competitive practice throughout business and industry. The news has reported on the decision of companies like Office Depot and OfficeMax, as well as U.S. Airways and American Airlines, to merge their corporations. The prevailing wisdom is mergers and acquisitions makes sense. Given the enduring economic stagnation, private businesses must make adjustments to maintain service expectations and enhance profitability. For those who believe the axiom “government should work more like a business,” this approach should be a no-brainer.

Despite many successful, cost-effective examples of municipal service cooperation, the political motivation to explore this strategy as an alternative to our increasing financial challenges remains tepid. There are many reasons for this. Generally, the effort to build teams and create trust in the public sector takes time, involves work, and often boils down to the character, leadership, and future-focus of the people participating in the effort. Specifically, some political leaders fear a reduction in power, oversight and control. Some public employees might attempt to obstruct these efforts out of concern for their employment or because they are concerned about how consolidation could affect and alter the workplace environment. Some citizens might resist because they have a strong emotional attachment to their community and exhibit a strong sense of pride-of-place. They fear service consolidation will translate into the loss of their community’s unique historic identity.

While I realize these are very real concerns, I truly believe municipal service cooperation is an opportunity to improve upon a proven system of service delivery, in which shared oversight among municipal agencies leads to increased opportunities as the cost of providing exclusive services is carried by more consumers. The advantages, in my opinion, far outweigh the concerns, including reduced costs to taxpayers, preservation of traditional and anticipated services levels that have been threatened by reduced revenues, increased opportunities to hire and retain specialists in the local government arena who would otherwise be unaffordable for individual agencies, and sharing talent and expertise to address and solve problems across political boundaries. All this can be done cooperatively and still allow for individual communities to maintain their identities, local elected leaders, local ordinances and separate rates of taxation.

Gov. Walker’s State of the State Speech laid out five priorities for Wisconsin in the next two years, one of which included government reform. With this goal in mind, I can think of no better solution than working with our leaders in Madison, and supporting those who represent us in our local towns, villages, and cities to vigorously pursue cost-saving opportunities. It is my hope local taxpayers will support these efforts and call for action as a means of both preserving quality services and responding to the challenges of decreasing revenues and increasing costs.

Village exploring parks renovation

Assistant Editor Scott De Laurelle of the DeForest Times-Tribune reports on Poynette Village Administrator Daniel Guild’s work with the Poynette Park and Recreation Commission on their first Parks and Open Space Plan.

Village exploring parks renovation (DeForest Times-Tribune; 2/2/2010)

Excerpt: For Guild, it’s all about creating the kind of village people want to move to and stay in. “We’re not going to be Madison, we’re not going to be Portage – we’re a bedroom community, and let’s try to be the best bedroom community we can be,” he said. “You want to have good homes, good schools, some kind of a commercial service sector to provide for some shopping needs, and you want to have amenities for families – parks and recreation, good daycare facilities, opportunities for your children. This ties into that strategy.” “We’re making an investment in not only the community but people’s homes and families, and that’s a good thing,” he said.

Excerpt: Trustee Chris Polzer, a member of the parks commission, credited Guild for planning ahead on a “well-thought-out” proposal, but said trustees need to make sure village residents want and can afford the proposed improvements. Trustee Doug Avery, said the village has “key people in place” to make a large parks project successful. He said he understands people are “hurting because of the economy,” but that the village needs to plan for the future. “This is when you should be setting things up, not only planning, but getting the finances in place to do something, and also put a (financial) cushion back where it should be,” he said. “We’ve got a gentleman (Guild) who’s very strong in economic development, we’ve got some new board members who are progressive.

Guild provides options

Assistant Editor Scott De Laurelle of the DeForest Times-Tribune reports on Poynette Village Administrator Daniel Guild work on the 2010 municipal budget and his list of proposals for consideration by the Board of Trustees.

Guild provides options (DeForest Times-Tribune; 10/20/2009)

Downtown redevelopment plan drafted

Downtown Redevelopment Plan Drafted (Poynette Press; 9//2011)

Excerpt: The initial draft of the plan identified a concept building that would create an 8,400-square-foot space on the first floor for the library and a coffee shop and a 7,200-square-foot space on the second floor to house approximately three or four commercial office tenants. Other improvements would be 25 off-street parking spaces and a “pocket park/walkway” for access to parking and outdoor café seating. The plan would also preserve the Poynette Area Historical Society building and separate commercial and residential uses on the same block.

“We have a ways to go,” Guild said. “We’re laying the foundation and putting the
pieces together.”

$25K awarded for downtown

$25K awarded for downtown (Poynette Press; 8/30/2011)

Excerpt: Douglas Thurlow, underwriter and planner for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), said in the course of a year, the agency approves around 15 proposals. He said while several things stood out with Poynette’s proposal, the
amount of work already done by village officials was most impressive.

“Usually when you see a planning proposal, they’re at the first stage, whereas (Poynette) had already done a lot of the work,” he said. “So the plan here is to move right into the implementation stage, and that’s pretty unusual for a project. You like to see the project has a good chance of working, and this one seems like it’s far enough along it’s going to.
I was really impressed by the quality of work they’ve done so far.”

Thurlow said he was particularly impressed by the work done by Guild on the project, as well as Guild’s personal attention to seeing it through.

“I went up and met with Dan (Guild) in the fall, and I thought he was a very bright guy, seems like he’s very committed to making this project happen,” he said. “That helps when you see somebody who’s going to quarterback the project who seems to have the skills to
make it happen. He’s a go-getter and he had done his research. He had a realistic view of how to put the thing together, and I was impressed with him, and also was impressed by the effort as far as the community. It’s a great idea, as far as adjusting the needs of the community from what was a 19th-century downtown into the 21st century, because everything about that community is in a state of flux.

Kudos to trustees, Guild

Assistant Editor Scott De Laurelle of the Poynette Press shares his opinions on the hiring of Poynette Village Administrator Daniel Guild.

Kudos to trustees, Guild (Poynette Press; 7/27/2010)

Excerpt: Guild’s leadership, energy and ideas have brought a much-needed stabilizing
factor to a group that seemed to be floundering at times without an
administrator. And with some critical, long-term infrastructure and capital
improvement decisions looming – not to mention another tough budget process –
now it’s up to them to continue to keep moving in a positive direction. He is a person with lots of ideas and loves to talk about them, but I’m impressed by how good a listener he is. That’s a positive sign of a good leader. I have lost track of how many people have come up to me – sometimes solicited, sometimes not – and said how impressed they are with
Guild, and how he’s personally helped them, and how glad they are he’s on the
job. I’ve had many tell me they hope he sticks around for a while.