A Municipal Perspective on Regionalization, Consolidation and Interlocal Cooperation


Adopted by the Maine Municipal Association Executive Committee – June 4, 2003

 

 

The Maine Municipal Association is a strong supporter of the concepts of regionalism, interlocal cooperation and consolidation, and encourages municipal governments to use these governance alternatives when municipal governments determine that implementation of these concepts makes sense -- when they result in cost savings and/or greater effectiveness in the delivery of municipal services, or enhance those services.

 

These concepts have received a great deal of attention and support during the State’s recent financial crisis.  However, political leaders, the media and academics who support regionalization appear to have more of a vision than a concrete set of recommendations. 

 

Municipal leaders are inherently interested in finding savings in the delivery of governmental services and reducing the property tax burden, which in many locations is intolerably high.  From the municipal perspective, the on-going public discussion regarding increased use of regionalization must recognize some very important governance principles, including: sense of community, citizen access to decision-making and maintenance of quality of services.  The people of Maine put great value in direct government, local decision-making, volunteerism, community pride, civic duty, town meeting, strong public access and citizen control.  Municipal leaders share those values quite naturally and believe the quest for efficiencies through regionalization and consolidation will only be successful if great care is taken to recognize those values in the dialogue and to harness the strengths of municipal governments when undertaking the design of alternative service delivery systems.

 

The Maine Municipal Association supports discussions of regionalization that include the following components:

 

n                  Fact-based analysis -  It is imperative that the regionalization discussion be conducted in a fact-based environment of collaboration, objectivity, and shared analysis.  There are many interests with a stake in regionalization/consolidation.  Municipal government, state government, county government and other regional quasi-governmental entities, business interests, advocacy groups, and most importantly, Maine’s citizens, all have a keen interest in discussing regionalization issues.  The system analysis and alternative designs must be conducted and developed with input and technical assistance from all interested parties and not driven by pre-existing perceptions.

 

n                  Service-delivery focus -  The most productive analysis, from the municipal perspective, should focus on specific, individual services - a comparative review of how services are currently delivered that outlines the financial and non-financial impacts if services were delivered by a different level of government, by a regional service provider, or under an inter-local agreement.  Important factors to consider in any service delivery analysis include: (1) analysis should precede policy; (2) cost savings should be documented; (3) service quality should be maintained or improved; (4) citizen access to decision making should be preserved; and (5) volunteerism should not be replaced or discouraged.

 

n                  Grass Roots Approach -  Implementation of effective regionalization efforts will occur when the municipalities themselves decide that cooperation with other municipal, county or other government agencies makes sense.

 

n                  Incentives & Assistance – Financial assistance will be important to conduct objective analyses and to retain well qualified facilitators to assist in the review and discussion of potential regionalization efforts.  Additionally, financial incentives will serve to promote these efforts as well as assist with potential transitional cost issues.