Recession-battered cities combine services
1:08AM EDT October 19. 2012 - In a post-recession budgetary crimp, Chelsea, Mass., City Manager Jay Ash has seen the light. Chelsea is joining with big neighbor Boston to buy greener LED lights for the city’s 1,400 streetlights. Doing so may save $250,000 to buy them and $80,000 a year in electricity to power them.
Across the country, cities, counties and other local governments are combining services, from 911 call centers to basic purchasing, to capitalize on the economics of scale and offset declining revenue since the Great Recession. The recession technically ended in 2009, but pressure on cities has continued. A September National League of Cities (NLC) report predicted that this will be the sixth consecutive year of declining revenue for local governments.
“Municipalities are under tremendous pressure to find new ways to maintain and expand services to residents who want those services,” says Ash, whose city’s $135 million budget has grown by 1%-2% annually since 2008, compared with 4%-5% before the recession hit in 2007.
Ash says that when he came into government 30 years ago, “the last thing you would have done is call across your municipal border for help. Today, it is expected.”
Photo: Jay Ash, city manager of Chelsea, Mass., holds an LED streetlight unit, one of which the city bought in bulk with Boston and other nearby cities, which saved the city $250,000 on the purchase and will save an expected $80,000 a year in electricity. Photo by Josh T. Reynolds for USA TODAY)