SNOW HILL – Another $162,000 could be shaved off the Worcester County budget if cost-saving measures suggested by the county’s Government Efficiency Committee are successful.
During this week’s presentation, staff reported that the county has already saved hundreds of thousands of dollars by improving efficiency in county government.
“We’re proud to report there’s documented savings of more than $700,000,” said assistant county administrator Kelly Shanahan.
Most of those savings came from laying off 11 people in a controversial three-department consolidation last summer, Shanahan admitted.
The county also eliminated, for the time being, longevity bonuses for employees, special events and rewarding new teachers with laptops. Contracts for janitorial services and fuel were also re-bid to save money.
Shanahan noted that staff has also pursued other undocumented savings in purchasing and day-to-day operations.
The Government Efficiency Committee made three recommendations Tuesday on greater efficiencies, which are projected to save Worcester County another $162,400, according to staff estimates.
A revision of cell phone plans and policies could save the county $14,400 a year, according to the efficiency committee’s suggestions. The idea calls for a switch to a government-wide cell phone plan to permit shared minutes. Each department currently has a different cell phone plan.
This measure also calls for reductions in text messaging and picture sharing and forbidding customized ring tones and other added services. Alternatives to using cell phones should also be explored, the committee suggested.
Cell phone usage currently costs the county roughly $69,000 a year. Changing plans and usage would reduce that by 21 percent, the committee estimated.
An employee contest last spring selected Budget Officer Kathy Whited’s suggestion to consolidate cell phone plans across departments as the top idea of the 167 submitted.
“It’s a pretty monumental task but something that Verizon is willing to help us with,” said Shanahan.
Barbara Hitch, of the county’s accounts payable department, has spoken to Verizon twice, she said, seeking consolidation that will allow minutes to roll over across departments.
“It just didn’t happen,” Hitch said. “Now it’s time to take a look at that and save what we can save.”
The phone company is onboard with the idea, she said, and the county will continue to work on the consolidation.
The Government Efficiency Committee also suggested reducing janitorial services from five days to four at all county locations currently slated for five day a week cleaning services.
Simply rebidding janitorial work last year saved the county $15,300, Shanahan said.
Reducing janitorial services to four days would save $57,000, a 15-percent reduction, the committee estimated.
“We have the right and the ability to reduce the number of days,” said Shanahan.
County staff would then be asked to clean up around their desks and bring their trash to a central location to help keep county buildings clean.
Vehicle fuel consumption is the third area selected by the Government Efficiency Committee for cost savings.
Fuel consumption can be reduced through issuing a tip sheet of best practices to county employees, according to the committee. Those driving county vehicles should avoid idling for more than 60 seconds, driving the speed limit and keeping county vehicles maintained.
“Our thought is to implement with the carrot rather than the stick,” Shanahan said.
Following these tips could reduce fuel expenditures about $91,000, or 10 percent of the current amount, $908,000, laid out on fuel each year.
If the county does not see those savings, the tip sheet could become policy, according to Shanahan.
Other tip sheets might also be issued every few months, in an ongoing attempt to institute more money-saving changes to county government practices, on electricity, HVAC, cell phones, paper, printing, and postage.
Printing documents from a copy machine in black and white could save three cents a page, compared to printing that document on a color printer, for example.
The Government Efficiency Committee also proposed a program to recognize staff and department saving and efficiency improvements.
“The thought is every little bit counts. There’s always a little more we can do to save a penny here and save a penny there. It adds up,” said Shanahan.