Out of Control Policy Blog

More Georgia Officials Considering Local Government Privatization

From The Telegraph, more evidence that the "Sandy Springs effect" continues to spread throughout Georgia, this time in the context of a proposed merger of Macon and Bibb County:

A committee of community leaders has suggested privatizing many government functions and merging other city and county departments.

The initiative would be directed by a consolidation czar who would report directly to the mayor of Macon and the Bibb County Commission chairman to make sure plans are carried out.

The committee's report is still in draft form, and its members are seeking input from members of the Macon City Council and the Bibb County Commission. Many of the merger ideas are not new, but the report is one more sign that city-county consolidation, which has languished for years, has new momentum under Mayor Robert Reichert and Bibb County Commission Chairman Sam Hart. [...]

Some of the ideas are modeled after Gov. Sonny Perdue's Commission for a New Georgia, which sought to take a businesslike look at state government. Hatcher's father, Robert, co-chaired that commission. [...]

The report recommends:

–Merging the city and county engineering, technology, purchasing, billing, collection, human resources and risk management departments. The tax collector's office would oversee collections for a range of services, including court fines and permitting fees, in addition to taxes.

–Contracting out for many services now provided by government employees, including garbage pickup, vehicle maintenance and building upkeep. Existing departments could bid against private contractors for the work, and private companies could be required to retain existing government employees if they take over a service, the report says.

For more on managed competition—allowing public employees to bid against private firms to provide public services—see Reason Foundation's 2006 study here.

Meanwhile, citizens in north Fulton County are still pushing to carve out a new Milton County from the unincorporated parts of north Fulton (the same area where Sandy Springs, Dunwoody and other contract cities reside), and if that were to pass, it's likely that the new county would explore a similar startup model as the new Georgia contract cities, relying on private firms to provide the bulk of services.

It's amazing what some tension in the system can do to promote change in the system. In Georgia's case, the recent proliferation of newly incorporated cities contracting out for virtually all non-public-safety services forces policymakers and citizens to confront the reality that they're not thinking big enough on privatization.

» Reason Foundation's Annual Privatization Report 2009
» Reason Foundation's Privatization Research and Commentary

Leonard Gilroy is Director of Government Reform


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