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A Silver Lining? Towns Consider Service Consolidation

consolidationMany people have been saying for years (decades?) that Rhode Island, for its size and population, is outrageously (and inefficiently) over-serviced… Too many towns, too many school systems, too many police departments, etc. etc… Several state leaders have given unsuccessful lip service to the idea of serious service consolidation in the state, but it appears that our ongoing economic catastrophe might be starting to accomplish what has thus far been an impossible dream.

This Providence Business News article discusses that several Rhode Island municipalities have ongoing talks about combining services ranging from the mundane (animal services) to the sacred cow (school systems). No municipal borders or town halls are going anywhere quite yet, but our yawning budget deficit is starting to stoke some interesting ideas for solutions.

Image from gamasutra.com

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6 Responses to A Silver Lining? Towns Consider Service Consolidation

  1. Sam December 8, 2008 at 8:04 am #

    And amazingly, it only took a financial apocalypse to bring Rhode Islanders to the point of considering this mundane and, to all appearances, sensible measure.

    At this rate, Rhode Island could develop quite a reputation for being a place inhabited by reasonable, enlightened people, a place tolerant of new attitudes and ideas, a place with a reputation for progressive thinking — maybe even as soon as the next two or three millenia.

  2. Frymaster December 8, 2008 at 3:59 pm #

    Maybe I’m smoking too much, but I seem to remember a study recently released that shows a point at which consolidation of school districts in particular show diminishing returns.

    For some reason, the number 2,500 students is stuck in my mind as being the tipping point. Also, that study shows that RI is at the low end of some ratios of administrators-to-students.

    If anybody remember what I’m on about, please post a link. I can’t find it for the life of me…

  3. aktear December 9, 2008 at 1:35 pm #

    @Frymaster: The report was from RIPEC, and is here:

    http://tinyurl.com/5mssgc

    I think the tipping point was 6000 students, when the study authors claimed that inefficiencies enter back into larger districts. I had some issues with the methodology and the conclusions drawn.

  4. Sam December 10, 2008 at 6:31 am #

    What about inefficiencies in police and fire departments or in municipal clerical and administrative offices?

  5. Soren December 10, 2008 at 4:07 pm #

    I do wonder how different all these costs would be if there were a giant wave of consolidation. Say, for example, if Providence annexed Cranston, Warwick, Johnston, Pawtucket, Central Falls and East Providence.

    An added short-term benefit would be that CVS would sell double the local amount of high blood pressure medication during the public hearing process.

  6. Jef Nickerson December 19, 2008 at 10:45 am #

    An article in today’s Cape Cod Times reports about merger talks between the Eastham and Orleans Police Departments. The Cape is pretty much as balkanized as Rhode Island when it comes to the independence of local municipalities, though there are a couple regional school districts out there.

    The primary spark for the police regionalization talks is [Eastham Police Chief] Hedlund’s retirement in March, which “makes this a good opportunity to consider a common chief,” Dunford said.

    Hedlund makes $120,000 to lead Eastham’s 16-officer department. The Orleans force has 22 police officers, according to its Web site.

    Orleans and Eastham sit at the Cape’s elbow. Orleans is the major hub for the Outer Cape, with people from towns further out traveling to Orleans for many essentials. Before 1797, Orleans and Eastham were one town.

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