HOW SHOULD WE DO IT?

In case you missed it, in this month’s Highlander newsletter I focus on partnering with our sister governments and neighboring communities as a way to continue providing excellent community service despite limited resources.  As an organization, we strive to do more with less, making the effort to minimize the economic burden on our residents.  Communicating, planning and finding efficiencies with our sister governments and neighboring communities helps us to reach that goal.

We are already seeing some successes as we develop and implement creative and collaborative solutions.  For more details, read below to see what we specifically are achieving and what we are pursuing in the future.  In the coming months we will continue down this path together.  I look forward to keeping you updated.

Each of us: the City, school districts, park district, and our neighboring communities are striving to provide high levels of service while minimizing the financial burdens on residents. Resources are limited, yet our communities’ needs are growing. In the coming months, you will be hearing about the City’s efforts to achieve shared services and consolidation. Our goals are twofold:improved use of resources and continued provision of high quality servicesto you.

Setting up purchasing consortia, eliminating redundancies, and analyzing outsourcing are the first steps and we are well on our way. Now is the time to work together creatively to find additional efficiencies to achieve our goals.

The City’s recent partnership with the Highland Park Public Librarydemonstrates success in achieving those goals. When the library needed funds to renovate, the City provided financial assistance. In the course of that conversation, we recognized that we could do more together. Instead of separately contracting out for building repairs (roof, tuck-pointing, etc.) as the library had previously done, we agreed that the City’s public works department could provide those services at a lower cost. We then took the concept further and worked with the library to analyze its business costs: payroll, accounting, phone services, computer services, human resources, legal, etc. Early next month, we will be meeting to talk about the results of that analysis and to discuss ways in which we can share services and be more productive with your tax dollars.

Can these business cost efficiencies also be realized with the school districts and the park district? Last year, we jointly applied for banking services and were able to get a reduced rate. Would contracting together for accounting and computer services save us money? It likely would. Already, the City is exploring an information technology consortium with several neighboring communities and the option of sharing servers, thus reducing costs.

Building inspections are another area where efficiencies can be achieved. The City is currently pursuing a building inspection coalition with Lake County and five other cities; considering the sharing of building inspections services, again, achieving efficiencies with our resources while maintaining strong service.

Like the City, the park district and school districts all use large vehicles for maintenance, snowplowing, etc. We are evaluating the feasibility of having one place for all trucks to be stored and maintained. Can we share any equipment or staff? How do we make sure that priorities for service are met, but also use these resources efficiently? These questions will be answered in the coming months.

Earlier this month, the City Manager and I met with our counterparts from Lake Forest, Lake Bluff and Highwood to discuss the possible consolidation of our fire fighting teams. While the many components of that arrangement are being analyzed, we are well on our way (with our police departments) toconsolidating our public safety dispatch services. Why have a building with a phone center in each city or village when we can we provide the same level of service with centralized dispatch?

Likewise, the City Manager and I are talking with our Highwood counterparts to discern opportunities for equipment sharing, communications synergies and coordinated community development. Earlier this year, we saw the successful renovation of Western Ave. and are looking for other opportunities to work together for the benefit of our two cities. Additionally, our water treatment plant upgrade is a terrific example of neighboring communities sharing the costs and reaping the benefits of a coordinated project.

Beyond the basics: public safety and public works, consider the additional things that make our community special: youth and senior services, the arts, celebrating our history, our diversity. These are all ripe for increasedcollaboration with our schools and the park district. By coordinating the use of our resources, we can enhance our community through a common mission of jointly supporting the values we hold dear. We are working with our schools and the park district to better coordinate the provision of youth services. Together with the school districts, we highlight our community artists in the City-housed Art Center and we are working with the schools, the park district and our library to celebrate our history and our diversity.

There are many pieces that fit together to make a community. As governing bodies, we need to work smarter and more creatively together. As a City, we are focused on this task and in the coming months, we will be reaching out to our sister governments to further our conversations to achieve these goals together.

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