Service-sharing initiatives have proven to be effective tools for local governments looking to save taxpayer dollars and improve efficiency. More communities in northeastern Illinois may want creative service-sharing arrangements with their neighbors as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the economy and vital revenue sources.
In Lake County, smaller municipalities with limited capacity have expanded agreements with the county’s Planning, Building and Development Department to cover additional inspection services. Communities also have shared services to maximize purchasing power and save money, such as jointly buying road salt in bulk to better prepare for the region’s notoriously harsh winters. Jointly procuring supplies and sharing emergency dispatch services were the most commonly shared services among 117 municipalities in the region, according to a 2015 survey by CMAP and the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus.
Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s comprehensive plan for the region, ON TO 2050, encourages communities to pursue more service-sharing partnerships in the face of governments being asked to do more with less. ON TO 2050 covers strategies that local governments can use to effectively facilitate partnerships and proactively plan to share services and staff.
Local governments that lack the resources to analyze needs, find potential partnerships, or develop shared services can benefit from technical assistance. For example, Montgomery, Oswego, and Yorkville worked through CMAP’s Local Technical Assistance program in 2015 to identify opportunities for service sharing and developed the Lower Fox River Partnering Initiative, which has led to a number of coordinated activities, including shared staff and equipment.
Currently, McHenry County and the McHenry County Council of Governments are using our LTA program to develop a coordinated investment study. The goals are increasing efficiencies, streamlining intergovernmental cooperation, and reducing costs while elevating the quality of public services throughout the county.
Elected officials and government staff interested in service sharing can start the process by asking themselves:
What services do we expect our constituents will need that we do not have the capacity to provide?
What networks are we a part of that can help connect us with other governments for potential partnerships?
What services do neighboring governments offer that we could jointly provide? What differences in staffing and organization could offer opportunities to partner?
How can we and other governments assess what partnerships would work well? And how will we measure success?
How can state, counties, and intergovernmental task forces set members up to pursue partnerships, such as service sharing?
The economic downturn will have a lasting effect on taxes and other revenue sources that municipalities and counties typically rely on. A larger cooperative approach across more local government services in the years ahead will help to strengthen the region’s COVID-19 recovery.