We Need a Municipal Paradigm Shift

A prescription for regionalization.

It is time for a paradigm shift in municipal governance in Rhode Island. We can no
longer afford 39 municipal fiefdoms. The solution is to have a reasonable regionalization into county government. Here’s how it could be done.

Step one would be to reorganize our counties to make sense, combine Bristol and
Newport Counties together into an East Bay County, make East Providence part of
that. Divide Providence County and have a separate Blackstone Valley County,
including Pawtucket, Woonsocket, Central Falls, Cumberland, Lincoln, Smithfield
and North Smithfield. For the sake of this regionalization, the City of Providence would continue to stand alone as it serves a population about equal to each county. 

Step two would be to determine what is regionalized, I believe we should regionalize back-end services and some of the more cumbersome public services, leaving most community services up to the towns and cities, my list includes:

  • Financial Services (39 Directors making $75,000-120,000 down to 6)
  • Personnel Services (20 Directors making $50,000-110,000 down to 6)
  • Technology Services
  • Facilities Maintenance / Custodial Services
  • Refuse Services
  • Building Inspection (other than zoning)
  • Water and Wastewater Utilities (too much for small towns to handle)


Step three would be to determine how we would govern a limited County Government. I think you could have a County Commission comprised of the City/Town Council Presidents and an appointed County Administrator.

Step four would be to determine how to fund a limited County Government, and I think that the state should appropriate the meals tax toward funding County Government. Water and wastewater operations would be funded county-wide by a user fee.

Just consolidating the Finance and Personnel Directors alone would save over $2
million state-wide, after factoring in the county level costs, based on the
most recent survey of municipal salaries. That doesn’t include the cost of
synergies for the rest of those departments and the others. This change, or
something like it needs to happen in order to maintain our level of service
without making the property tax burden unsustainable. We need a real change in
our municipal structure state-wide, time for the fiefdoms to end.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Caroline Evans May 07, 2012 at 05:18 PM
As to what went down the chute in my former hometown. It is now about a decade later.. and the same project that was corrupty bamboozled all to hell is STILL not done and see efforts still underway to try to re-fund the project to clean up the mess that was made when between a quarter and half-million dollars were allocated to a project that got pilage by "well respected" people who are the principals in a "well repsected" non-profit.... except the people involved were not even close qualiifed to perform the duties they took huge fees for performing. Between their corrupt taking of fees for service they were not legally allowed to perform.... and buddying up with others who pillaged the grant funds for their own benefit.... they would have done better if they had just taken the heap of grants and just had a bonfire with the money.. at least the crooks would not have been emboldened and rewarded for being crooked. The crooked incompetent non-profit is still at it.. and is in the middle of robbing another non-profit organization of fees for services they are not qualified to provide in the same town. There is nothing so low as a phony non-proft that offers services to other non-profits and just takes their money from them. The tiny few people who "wortkk" the phony non-profit take their profits in the form of paychecks for doing less than nothing since they are not licensed or trained to provide those services. They make messes others have to clean up.
Jason Desrosiers May 07, 2012 at 09:38 PM
The way that I see it, all communities involved would benefit, broke communities will be a bit less broke, well off communities will be a bit more well off, there's no way that the savings would just be funnelled to the urban municipalities or those that are poorly managed. The bills and example of regionalizing police and fire is exactly why I left them out of this proposal and why I've been arguing with Caroline that it won't work. As for local taxpayers not wanting to relinquish control, I doubt many wake up thinking "boy I'm sure glad with have our own HR department here in X town" I can see maybe some opposition to refuse and water as those are services that actually interface with the public, I still think that water/sewer is too much of a drain on towns/cities individually however. Obviously some local kingpins may not like that he can't get Joe Schmo a cushy job in the town's HR department, but I think that's the only opposition you will find to stuff like that.
Jason Desrosiers May 07, 2012 at 09:45 PM
Schools aren't part of the proposal and maybe I'm being naive but I would hope and beleive that Rhode Islanders as a whole are better than to refuse to collaborate on a service because of the diversity of backgrounds, ethnicities and socio-economic classes involved.
Jason Desrosiers May 07, 2012 at 09:53 PM
"I think you have made a case for the work in EP to be audited by outsiders since you seem to be wholly clueless to these inescapable legal requirements. One of my tax clients was an auditor of municipalities. There are CPA firms that specialize in this stuff because it requires pros. You have, in a public forum made a good case that an audit of EP be done since you have suggested a pack of rank amateurs may have violated who knows how many laws and GAAP/GAAS standards." We just had our audit from an independent auditor Bacon and Edge. We had a Roger Williams University study done on consolidation prior to starting it. We have both a Budget Commission of financial and administrative experts and the State Auditor-General and state Director of Revenue overlooking our finances. All of these sources have either recommended cosolidation or concurred that our decision to do so was the right one to make.
JJD May 09, 2012 at 01:19 AM
http://www.facebook.com/RegionalizationOfServicesInRhodeIsland I plan to follow and support this


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »