Why Cities Are Working So Hard To Share Services

Cities are experimenting with ways to share services and consolidate operations to cut costs, improve efficiency and make better use of available resources


What Happened?

Cities across the country are experimenting with new ways to share services and consolidate operations to cut costs, improve efficiency and make better use of available resources.

Shared Services Policies

Rhode Island legislators recently introduced a bill that would make it easier for municipalities to share services to reduce waste and eliminate redundant costs. The Joint Municipal Shared Services Study Commission helped draft the bill that encourages voluntary agreements between:
  • Cities
  • Towns
  • Fire districts
  • School districts
  • Other taxing authorities

The state is setting aside additional funding to support collaborative and innovative projects focused on shared services and consolidation. State officials are conducting a survey to determine how each municipality could engage in, and benefit from, shared services, SF Gate reported.

Shared Bids

There are many ways municipalities can consolidate their resources and operations to increase efficiency. In Warren County, New York, a new program is launching that will enable towns to bid on commodities with the county to increase purchasing power and lower overall costs. Through a state-mandated shared services push, towns will be able to share personnel, materials and purchase power when acquiring commodities such as:
  • Road salt
  • Construction materials
  • Office supplies
  • Gravel and sand
  • Water treatment chemicals
  • Legal advertising

By bidding for materials as a larger, collaborative entity, each municipality will be able to pay less for their share of the items.  Furthermore, municipalities will spend less time and manpower arranging and tracking purchases through a joint bidding arrangement, Post Star reported.

Shared Content

The San Antonio Public Library and the Bexar County BiblioTech recently announced a partnership to share digital content acquisition and delivery services. The goal of the shared services agreement is to eliminate the city-county rivalry over digital library services by creating a cooperative new digital content system, the San Antonio-Express News reported.

The city and county created a collaborative framework that enables users to select and receive digital content from either provider through a single platform. The goal is to allow residents to use both library systems for digital content acquisition through a more convenient and efficient system.

Shared Dispatch

Bridgewater Township in New Jersey will soon become the largest municipality to enter into a shared services agreement with Somerset County to consolidate its police dispatch services. Somerset County’s Communication Center will be the centralized dispatch resource for seven municipalities, working to streamline processes and eliminate redundant services, NJ.com reported.

Under the shared services agreements, each municipality is able to select how many operations provided by the county it will take advantage of. For example, some of the cities will use the central communication center for 911 services only, while others have opted for the county to manage all inbound calls to local police departments, NJ.com reported.

Shared Miscellaneous

Elsewhere in New Jersey, the Delaware Valley High School Board of Education has approved shared services for technology, transportation and maintenance with other adjacent districts. The Delaware Valley High School District will share:
  • Technology services with six other districts
  • Maintenance services with three other schools
  • Transportation services with five other districts

The push for shared services comes after a state grant of $600,000 was approved for one of the local schools to launch a computer science academy program. By sharing technology services with other districts, more students would be able to take advantage of the upgrade resources to enhance school work, NJ.com reported.

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