Little by little, Sacramento city and county bigwigs are taking the first steps toward consolidation. Officials are even biting the bullet and taking on one of the toughest tasks -- showing the door to redundant administrators.
As part of the 2010-11 budget proposal he is unveiling today, City Manager Gus Vina is demoting or laying off four department heads -- labor relations, youth development, neighborhood services and either code enforcement or community development -- in the consolidation of those offices and agencies with other city departments. The savings: $2.7 million toward plugging a $43 million budget hole.
Vina is also looking at other internal mergers during 2010-11: establishing a maintenance department by bringing together parts of the general services, parks, utilities and transportation departments; creating a community relations department by consolidating the 311 call center, neighborhood services and e-government efforts; and by merging police and fire dispatching.
And city officials are looking at potential consolidations with Sacramento County on animal services, parking collections, vehicle abatement services, law enforcement storage and building inspections.
On the county side, it has dismissed the animal shelter director as a precursor to possibly getting out of the animal care business entirely and turning it over to the SPCA, the city or a combination of agencies that could be a regional partnership.
To help close a $181 million deficit, 16 of the 33 remaining jobs at the shelter would be cut. The county is figuring out how to keep open the gleaming $23 million shelter, which opened just six months ago and which is costing the county $1.6 million a year in bond repayments.
Merging agencies and functions can often save taxpayers money, and in these tough budget times, every dollar counts. That has made officials here and elsewhere much more open to the possibilities.
Consolidation may be painful now, especially for managers who lose their jobs. But in the longer term, it will put local governments on much more solid financial footing.