Independent Report Finds Consolidation Of Saugatuck & Douglas Would Save $$
By eliminating a duplicate municipal workforce (city manager, treasurer, and clerk - and public works), more than $500,000 per year in savings can result if consolidation of the cities of Saugatuck and Douglas does occur, resulting in a savings of about $270 annually per person in the two communities, states the Wednesday release of the long anticipated study by the independent, non-partisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan (CRC).
“The savings results from elimination of one of two city managers, city treasurers, city clerks, and other officers. It results from the achievement of economies of scale in the operations of these offices. And it results from consolidating the public works departments to streamline their operations,” says the report. There would be costs that both cities would have to share to bring about that consolidation, including holding a vote, creating a one-government operation and merging codes, etc., but those costs would be offset by the annual savings while also improving government accountability which would benefit all citizens.
“The eyes of Michigan are on Douglas and Saugatuck as the residents of these two neighboring communities weigh the benefits and drawbacks of the proposed merger,” said Eric Lupher, CRC’s Director of Local Affairs.
“CRC strongly feels that better information leads to better decision making. It is our hope that the residents of these communities will use the information in this report to consider the vote before them.”
The complete report is available on the Citizens Research Council of Michigan website at www.crcmich.org.
The two cities already share a lot, including library, water and sewerage, the harbor authority as well as the most costly services of fire protection, police protection and transit services, the researchers found.
This “artificially” creates the conditions of what one community would look like, states the report.
There is a drawback, however, to that (current) collaboration as it currently exists, according to the CRC.
“The result of this collaboration resembles what residents, visitors and businesses could expect to get from a single governmental entity, but the tradeoff is diminished accountability.
A merger of Saugatuck and Douglas would not change delivery of these services, but it could strengthen the lines of accountability,” indicates the report.
The group opposed to the merger, Citizens for Independent and Cooperative Communities, and Douglas City representatives were unavailable for comment on Wednesday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Saugatuck city officials said they had yet to review the report.
Members of the Consolidated Government Committee (CGC), who in 2012 initiated the proposal to merge by submitting petitions to the Michigan State Boundary Commission, said they were in the process of reviewing the study before making any comment.
However, they offered the following statement:
“Perhaps the most important objective for this study was to determine a reliable consolidation cost-savings projection.
“The CRC identified well over $500,000 in annual savings—even higher than our projections—or more than 17% of the two cities’ current spending. And they went on to estimate property-tax savings at over $500 per owner in both current cities.
“While we are still reviewing the full 40-page report, these topline key findings are very gratifying, and represent a real service to the voters.”