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Commentary: SkinnyOhio.org Is a Little Skinny on The Facts

If only there  was a website that could cure all my financial woes. I’d love to be able to log on and learn how others are managing their finances and are finding cost-savings to make their dollars stretch further. State Auditor, Dave Yost, has set up a site to do just this for Ohio cities and towns. It’s called SkinnyOhio.org.  Yost’s office launched a couple of months ago. It’s  designed to be an idea clearinghouse for local governments seeking financial efficiency – a , “new tool,â€?to have a clean, accountable and efficient government. At first glance, it looks like a great idea. Rotating images of shiny yellow school buses, a wind farm and large satellite dishes grab the reader and make him or her think that this is a great for-the-people, site to find ways local governments can work together to decrease redundancy and save tax dollars. But look a layer down, and it is apparent that SkinnyOhio.org provides just another checklist of ideas GOP proposals that make it look like its saving Ohioans money. The website is broken down into six different areas. One is operation and facility management. Under the dispatch consolidation tab, Yost provides examples of general successes like the Montgomery County Regional Dispatch Center and a mutual-aid agreement between a number of cities and towns in northeast Ohio. He even provides a few national examples to further push his office’s agenda. But local examples indicate consolidation is not that easy. Recently, Hilliard police and Norwich Township fire came  together under the same roof to try to save money  and improve communications.. The  construction cost of the joint facility was less than building two new facilities for the police and fire departments. But The Dispatch reports , as soon as the new facility opened,  the operating costs skyrocketed for both Hilliard and  the township. The same thing happened when the City of Delaware and Delaware County emergency dispatching services merged a few years ago. Operating costs increased by more than $2 million after the merger. The problem – OK, one of the problems – with SkinnyOhio.org is it only discusses the positive aspects of mergers and consolidation. Nowhere does Yost, or the site, address the potential pitfalls that can be incredibly costly for local governments. If Yost really wanted to be financially responsible, he and SkinnyOhio.org would provide more than just the typical rah-rah for the Kasich administration. SkinnyOhio.org would actually give the skinny on how local governments are faring.