Cost Savings Continue to Add Up for County Government

By Barry Leemann, Chairman, Oswego County Legislature

With the current economic condition of New York State, most people, from the family sitting around the kitchen table to local governments and school districts, are looking at ways that we can save money and tighten our belts. Over the past several months we’ve taken several steps to conserve and cut the operating costs of Oswego County government. Now is a good time to bring you up to date on these projects.

·    Vehicle replacement: I have requested our County Administrator, Phil Church, to ask department heads to consider smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles and smaller equipment when reviewing budget requests for the replacement of motorized equipment.

·    Green Team Task Force: This spring I appointed a Green Team Task Force to look at energy and cost-saving initiatives. We are working with other counties, state agencies, and universities and gathering information regarding their experiences in alternative fuels, on-site power generation, retrofitting our equipment, and the use of alternative energy-saving building materials.

·    Hold on large construction projects: We have been very conservative this year on beginning any large building or construction projects. We don’t want to commit large dollars of county money considering the present state of the economy and the state cutbacks in aid to our county. All legislators have worked hard to control spending and cut the cost of providing government services.  We are reviewing our services to see what can be eliminated to keep our taxes under control.

·    Municipal conference: This fall we are scheduling a municipal conference with towns, villages, school districts, and other interested parties to discuss how we can work together to mutually reduce expenses and encourage municipal sharing, reduce government duplication, and listen to the concerns of the attendees.

·    Highway fuel savings: Highway fuel usage is down 19,000 gallons so far this year. The highway department cut 44 miles from its planned schedule of paving projects this summer, and implemented a “no idle” policy for trucks and heavy equipment. So far they have saved 9,000 gallons of gasoline and 10,000 gallons of diesel fuel.

·    Natural gas savings: Most of the county buildings use natural gas as the source of heating fuel. The county joined the Municipal Gas and Electric Alliance this summer to cooperatively buy fuel with other local governments. This will result in tens of thousands of dollars in fuel savings for the 2008-2009 heating season. For the month of November alone, at current fuel prices, we’re looking at a savings of between $3,000 to $6,000 to heat county office buildings, the two courthouses, highway garages, and other facilities.

·    Cooperative purchasing: We are working to develop more cooperative purchasing of products and services with local and neighboring municipalities. Our Purchasing Department and Oswego County BOCES are close to adopting an agreement for cooperative purchasing of commonly used items such as copy paper and fuel. We’re also working with nearby counties to develop regional emergency communication systems that will leverage grant dollars and reduce the cost of a new system.

·    Fire Training School: The County’s acquisition of the former Niagara Mohawk Fire Training School will help our local fire agencies save money on training costs.

·    Fixed asset inventory: Oswego County government has long maintained an extensive inventory of all fixed assets, equipment and furniture worth more than $500 in value. This summer the Purchasing Department audited and updated the inventory of fixed assets. The new bar-code process gives the county more accurate and precise control of our inventory of fixed assets. An added benefit may be that it could also reduce insurance costs.

·    Vacant positions: We have revised our vacancy review procedure to focus on positive justification and succession planning when a county position becomes vacant. Positions are not automatically backfilled.

·    Health insurance savings: Oswego County and the Co-Op Union, which represents over half of the County’s workforce, have agreed to form a Health Plan Coalition, and they have invited the County’s other four unions to join them.  The purpose of the Coalition is for all of the parties to work together to gain a stronger understanding of the increasing cost of health care to the County.   By all parties understanding the fundamentals of health care, costs associated with health care and the Oswego County Health Plan, they will be informed members/consumers that can make educated decisions relating to their health plan.

Many opportunities and challenges are ahead of us. However, with the support and assistance of the County Legislature, department heads and county workforce, I am certain that we will continue to find ways to cut costs and conserve energy and other resources.