The General Assembly’s watchdog agency has been analyzing the costs and benefits of providing state incentives that could help local governments collaborate. The regional partners could share staff, tackle construction projects, or jointly deliver services-and perhaps even alleviate some fiscal stress. Regional cooperation in several existing programs points the way to how it could work in others.
The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission found that regional jails exemplify successful collaboration. The state reimburses half of a locality’s costs to operate a regional jail. That’s twice the reimbursement for a local jail-and costs localities about $23 less per inmate each day. Project Leader Tracey Smith said of 13 potential collaborative opportunities, six can benefit localities and produce state savings or advance state policy goals. She said one example is special ed-in cases where schools have needed private providers.
“Services in privately-run programs for students on the autism spectrum cost about $13,000 per year more than regional programs. We also looked at data on service costs for students with disorders falling under the emotional disturbance disability category. These services are about $6500 per year more expensive when provided by a private program versus a regional program, said Smith.
Other opportunities are career education, foster care, public safety communications, and pretrial services. The report recommended prioritizing state incentives for those programs.
–Anne Marie Morgan