The struggle between two camps – those in favor of outsourcing and those against it – has been described as being akin to the immortal feud between the Montigues and the Capulets. However, in fair Verona, those two houses did not have to deal with year after year of revenue shortfalls, layoffs, budget cuts, and service reduction.
That’s why a pervasive discussion about public-private partnerships is becoming less of a point of contention and more of a part of compromise. Local government officials and stakeholders from both camps -those for and against outsourcing – have begun working to ensure that residents receive services, employees keep working, and the system continues to operate.
In many municipalities, the shift from in-house to partnership delivered service has taken hold in nearly every function of government.
The city of West Hollywood has been contracting its parking enforcement operations since 2006. Serco North America employees are indistinguishable from city employees, and have been enforcing parking laws for the last six years.
During the course of the contract, revenues have increased to as much as $7 million per year in parking citations. In fact, West Hollywood contracts out more than just it’s parking services; in 2010, the city spent 23% of its revenues on contracted services.
San Mateo has also turned to a public-private partnership, this one since 1993. Their fleet maintenance services are handled by one of the nation’s largest fleet management firms, First Vehicle Services.
But public-private partnerships aren’t only serving California communities, other cities in other states have found ways to reduce costs while delivering greater services to their residents.
In Orlando, Florida, the city switched from a city-hosted email service to a Google “Cloud.” Initial reports showed that the city would save as much as $262,000 per year, and according to the city, those savings have been realized.
Even New York City has outsourced its email services, instead opting for a Microsoft Cloud platform. Their switch is expected to save as much as $10 million each year of the five-year contract, saving the city a total of $50 million.
The city and county of San Francisco recently decided to upgrade and consolidate its multiple, citywide email systems used by more than 23,000 employees as part of its ongoing efforts to improve the quality and efficiency of its services and reduce IT management costs.
“It is our responsibility to make decisions that are fiscally responsible, forward-looking, and improve the services that city and county employees provide to our constituents,” said San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee.
High-tech isn’t alone in opting for new operational design. Even libraries, once the untouchable institution of a community, have begun using outside vendors and contractors to operate public library systems. Santa Clarita recently decided to switch its library systems over to Library System and Services, Inc. The company has experience handling high profile accounts such as the Library of Congress and has worked regionally, operating the Riverside County library systems.
“We originally started contracting out library services in 1997,” said Tonya Kennon, the Riverside County Librarian. “Since then, we’ve been able to increase services and hold them steady since, even while others have had to cut back recently.”
Riverside’s library system has 33 branches and 2 bookmobiles, or mobile libraries.
“Its been a very beneficial partnership,” said Kennon.
Whatever the service, whichever the government, so long as the economy continues straining local budgets, public-private partnerships will become more commonplace in California.